published Saturday, January 30th, 2010

2,000 toil at VW site

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    Staff photo by Patrick Smith/Chattanooga Times Free Press Construction workers continue to assemble Volkswagen's paint shop facility. VW officials said that the plant was on schedule.

The number of workers building Volkswagen’s Chattanooga auto assembly plant has topped the 2,000 mark, according to officials.

Construction of the $1 billion factory slated to start production in little over a year is meeting deadlines, they said.

“Overall, building is on schedule,” said Don Jackson, VW’s president of manufacturing for the automaker’s Chattanooga operations.

Thilo Brockhaus, VW’s construction project manager, said that about 2,100 workers are on site at Enterprise South industrial park.

Mr. Brockhaus said it was just nine months ago that the first structural column for the initial building, the facility’s future paint shop, was put into place.

Officials have said the number of construction workers at the site likely will peak at somewhere under 3,000.

Mr. Jackson said equipment for the plant’s body shop is starting to arrive. Installation of paint shop equipment is about a third finished, officials said.

In addition, Mr. Jackson said maintenance personnel, those who take care of the highly technical equipment, have started training at Chattanooga State Community College.

He said about 400 permanent VW employees have been hired so far, with production workers being brought on in numbers early this year. VW is slated to employ more than the 2,000 workers.

“It’s such an exciting time,” Mr. Jackson said recently. “People have new careers, new opportunities. This is the most exciting phase — to see new people learn new jobs.”

The VW official also said that with a tight 2010 construction time schedule, the company has taken key steps related to work safety.

“We have a number of contractors working in a small space,” Mr. Jackson said. “If they work individually, they don’t have a clear vision of how to work efficiently and safely.”

He said the company has implemented a team activity that gets contractors together and establishes clear working zones.

“Through our efforts we’re working very safe to keep the project on time,” Mr. Jackson said.

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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