Almost one year ago, April Wortham was rushing down I-24 to cover Volkswagen's announcement that Chattanooga had been selected as the site for its $1 billion auto assembly plant. Then a reporter in the Nashville bureau of "Automotive News" magazine, Volkswagen was part of her beat.
"I remember telling my friends what a great town Chattanooga was and how I might like to live there one day," she says.
Landing the job as community relations specialist for Volkswagen Group of America's Chattanooga operations accelerated that change of address.
"April is smart, outgoing and understands the automotive industry," said Jill Bratina, director of corporate communications for Volkswagen Group of America.
"She brings a reporter's natural inquisitiveness, a Southerner's charm and a workaholic's dedication to the project," Ms. Bratina said in describing her Chattanooga counterpart.
What are your job responsibilities as VW community relations specialist?
Hometown: Harpersville, Ala.
Education: B.A.. in journalism from the University of Alabama
Career: Journalist for nine years, reporter for "Automotive News," now VW community relations specialist
Volunteerism: Ronald McDonald House
Social/civic memberships: Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, Rotary Club International
Last book read?
Favorite sports team?
University of Alabama football
People would be surprised to know?
"I don't speak German."
Her guilty pleasure?
"Reading" celebrity magazines
"It's a little bit of everything. I work with the local, national and sometimes international media to keep the public informed about what we're doing in Chattanooga. I work with local elected officials and other stakeholders, such as the school systems and civic organizations, to keep lines of communication open. I also help plan events like the VW wall-raising held in May. No two days are alike.
How much experience did you have in the communications/public relations field?
I'd been a journalist for nine years, working at small and mid-size daily newspapers throughout the Southeast. As the business reporter at the Tuscaloosa News, I wrote about Mercedes-Benz and its suppliers there. That's what got me hooked on the automotive industry.
I was a reporter for "Automotive News," covering the North American manufacturing operations of Korean and German automakers.
I already knew quite a bit about Volkswagen as a company and its products, the project here and the automotive industry as a whole. I think my previous experience in daily newspapers helped because I understand the importance of building relationships within a community.
Being new to the city, what's been the best surprise about Chattanooga?
How much there is to do! People might think that, compared to Nashville, Chattanooga operates on a slower pace, but I haven't found that to be the case.
What has most impressed you about VW's commitment to the people of the Tennessee Valley?
Volkswagen is here for the long haul. The entire automotive industry -- not just in the United States, but globally -- is in a state of upheaval right now. But Volkswagen hasn't lost its focus. We're looking to the future and Chattanooga is a huge part of that.
I'm equally impressed by the commitment that the people of Chattanooga and Tennessee as a whole have shown Volkswagen. We're reminded every day that the decision to come here was the right one.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...