Southeast Tennessee officials and business leaders will head for Germany next week with briefcases full of information to woo Volkswagen suppliers and jobs to the region.
“We know that Volkswagen is going to bring a lot of growth to the district and to this area and we want to stay on top of changes that are to come,” Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis said Tuesday.
Suppliers will come with the VW plant and the region’s counties want to be ready for them, he said.
“The Germany trip is to recruit some more of those companies,” Mr. Davis said. Bradley is within the 60-mile radius of VW’s planned Chattanooga assembly plant and has at least seven industrial sites to offer, he said.
“I’m sure we’ll get some of these supplying companies here,” he said. “Volkswagen is a big enough project, hopefully, there’ll be something for everyone.”
Some region officials went to South Carolina’s BMW plants this week “to look at another community where something similar to this has occurred and to get some idea what to expect and be prepared for it,” Mr. Davis said.
He said VW and its suppliers will bring unprecedented growth to the region.
“Hopefully there’ll be other announcements in the future,” he said. “It’s truly an exciting time for the region.”
Laura Elkins, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said the mission is limited to about 40 people. Meetings begin Oct. 22 in Berlin and Volkswagen officials are bringing in their suppliers from all over Europe, she said.
She said ECD and regional officials developed a map showing available land and buildings in Southeast Tennessee to recruit suppliers.
The interactive map lists information about each site or building, and it’s constantly updated as officials provide new information, said Mike Stitt, Southeast Industrial Development Association director of economic development.
“My sense is they will be marketing that Web page to prospects,” Mr. Stitt said.
The map shows that “We have sites and buildings ready,” he said.
Bledsoe County Mayor Gregg Ridley said the delegation to Germany will make the most of tools and information to bring home employers.
“This is all about jobs,” Mr. Ridley said.
Tools like the map allow the region’s smallest counties to market themselves to a worldwide audience, he said. He’ll be promoting property in Bledsoe’s industrial park and the site of a former automotive-related industry. Both sites are on the interactive map, he said.
United efforts by regional officials over the years pay off for everyone, said Jack Hammontree, executive vice president and CEO of the McMinn County Economic Development Authority.
“We think over the past five to 10 years we’ve gotten ourselves really prepared,” Mr. Hammontree said. McMinn can market industrial sites near major traffic routes and a labor force with experience in the auto supplier field, he said.
Marion County Mayor Howell Moss said representatives will have an chance to pitch their county’s selling points.
“My plans are to get an opportunity to meet these tier 1, 2 and 3 (suppliers) that will be spin-offs from Volkswagen,” Mr. Moss said. “We’re going to learn a lot.”
Officials will present their county’s top sites and services, but there are no winners and losers when there is so much to gain, Mr. Moss said.
“We’ll be working as a group, so if we can’t get one in our county, we’ll can get it in another one,” he said.
“We’re going to be showing cooperation not just in Hamilton County but all the counties surrounding Hamilton County, which is very important to Volkswagen,” Mr. Moss said.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...