published Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

VW, mayors pitch city to supplier CEOs


Mach 18 is the name of VW’s long-term strategy to triple U.S. sales to 800,000 units by 2018.

Volkswagen on Tuesday met with top officials of about 100 suppliers for its planned factory, and the automaker and city leaders pitched Chattanooga as a place to locate a new plant.

“Let us know if you’re interested,” said Frank Fischer, mentioning the supplier park slated to go up next to the auto assembly plant. “We’re open to expansion.”

VW invited the company CEOs to the Chattanooga Convention Center to talk with the German carmaker about standards it expects from a technical and quality standpoint, said Ian Davies, general manager of project purchasing for VW Group of America.

“We’re asking CEOs to be involved in the project,” he said.

During that time, Mayor Ron Littlefield and Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey sent up recruiting balloons.

“The city is the most transitioned city in America,” said Mr. Littlefield, adding Chattanooga has gone from holding “old heavy industry to new heavy industry and new high-tech” companies.

Mr. Ramsey told the CEOs that if their company needs a building, the county has those available.

“Those that need land, we have that,” he said.

Trevor Hamilton, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for economic development, introduced its “Volkswagen team” aimed at wooing supplier firms. He cited Chattanooga’s long manufacturing tradition.

One company, Gestamp Corp., has announced plans to build a facility in Chattanooga to service the auto plant, which is slated to start production in early 2011. Other suppliers have indicated they plan at least short-term to service the plant from existing locations because of the shaky economy.

However, VW officials said there will be the supplier park that’s expected to have eight to 10 companies at first and be ready next summer. Officials expect the park initially will hold buildings about 400,000 square feet in size.

Mr. Fischer said VW’s state-of-the-art training center at the plant site, which is to open early next year, will be available to companies that pick a Chattanooga location.

Thomas Loafman, VW Group of America’s purchasing director, said officials at the automaker believe it’s important to be a part of the area.

He said a lot of the supplier company officials believe the same is true.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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