NASHVILLE — Gov. Phil Bredesen said Tuesday he and other officials will travel to Germany next month and begin selling Volkswagen AG suppliers on the idea of locating factories in Tennessee to service the German manufacturer’s planned Chattanooga assembly plant.
“I really want to take this victory of Volkswagen deciding to come to Chattanooga and (use) this now to leverage it into additional investment,” Gov. Bredesen said. “There’s a lot of reason for suppliers to Volkswagen to be located in Tennessee in the general area of the plant down there.”
Persuading Volkswagen suppliers to locate in Southeast Tennessee will “provide opportunity not only for Hamilton County but some of the rural counties around there,” Gov. Bredesen said. “But to do that, we’ve got to get out and market it.”
The governor announced the trade mission at the state’s annual Economic and Community Development conference in Nashville. Volkswagen’s decision in July to locate its $1 billion auto assembly plant in Chattanooga generated a great deal of discussion at the two-day event.
The trade mission is scheduled for Oct. 22-28 with the first stop in Wolfsburg, Germany, where Gov. Bredesen and other delegation members will tour Volkswagen facilities and meet with company executives. The group will attend a Berlin reception hosted by Volkswagen Chairman Dr. Martin Winterkorn.
Gov. Bredesen then will return to Tennessee while other delegation members travel on to Dusseldorf, Munich and Frankfurt.
When finished in late 2010, the plant will house about 2,000 employees, but a recent University of Tennessee study found the facility will generate another 11,477 jobs from suppliers. Some 9,592 of those jobs would be located in Tennessee, while the remainder likely would go to nearby Georgia and Alabama, the study said.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said he plans to participate in the trade mission to Germany.
“We’re following it up (the Volkswagen plant announcement) with some suppliers and meeting with Volkswagen officials in a continuing effort,” he said. “We’re part of the way where we want to go. We want to try to locate additional jobs here in Chattanooga with additional suppliers.”
He said he is “very” optimistic some suppliers will locate in Chattanooga.
Matt Kisber, the state’s economic and community development commissioner, said the state has put together an “attractive” package of tax and job training incentives for suppliers. A recently passed law allows the state to offer $30,000 in job-tax credits over a five-year period for each job created by a VW-designated “integrated” supplier in Tennessee.
“We’re going to try to get as many as we can,” the commissioner said. “But Chattanooga as a region benefits from the employment in North Georgia and Northeast Alabama.”
Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap, whose district includes Marion, Sequatchie, Grundy and several other nearby counties, said it “would be great” if the district lands one or more Volkswagen supplier plants. He said counties in his district are working together.
“We’re going to try to get as many of those (plants) as we can in Southeast Tennessee,” he said.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...