published Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

650-foot sign set for Volkswagen factory roof to be seen from air

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    Contributed photo Aerials of the Supplier Park of Volkswagen of Chattanooga. These aerial photos taken in mid-July show VolkswagenĂ­s plant and its supplier park.

Volkswagen's sprawling Chattanooga plant, already one of the biggest factories in the region, may become even more visible.

From the air.

The automaker is looking at flat-mounting "Volkswagen Chattanooga" on the roof of its new factory in letters so big they can be seen by people flying in and out of Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.

It could be the largest "sign" ever placed in the area, though most people likely won't ever see it.

Preliminary drawings put the lettering, to be applied on the plant's white roof, at roughly 650 feet wide and 150 feet deep, said Richard Hutsell, zoning official for the city's Land Development Office.

"It's a big logo," he said.

Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW's Chattanooga operations, said the lettering will be so large it will be visible from viewing Google Earth by personal computer.

Fischer said he believed the Chattanooga plant would be the only one of the 60 or so VW factories worldwide with such a logo.

The lettering likely will be applied or painted on the roof in VW's typical blue color scheme, Hutsell said.

The VW project is exempt from the city's sign code because the lettering won't be visible from any location except by plane, Hutsell said. And it won't be illuminated at night, he added.

The sign is aimed at helping market the plant, company and city to those who fly into Chattanooga, according to officials.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield described it as "a landmark."

The cost wasn't immediately known by officials, and bid documents weren't available.

Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator, said state funds will pay for the project from a $2 million pool committed to VW for marketing and public relations as part of the incentive package to woo the automaker to Tennessee nearly four years ago.

"It will be a unique characteristic," he said, adding that it fits in with other extraordinary elements of Enterprise South industrial park, such as the spacious nature park that buffers the VW plant from Interstate 75.

The Wrigley Co. plant off Jersey Pike also plans to put similar, though smaller, rooftop lettering on its factory, said facility director Bruce VerBurg.

He said he believes the sign will say "Life Savers" as the company marks the 100th anniversary of the ring-shaped hard candy.

VerBurg said the lettering will be about 40 feet by 12 feet.

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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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