Source: Business Facilities
Tennessee was picked as the top automotive powerhouse in the country by a national magazine that cited key investments by both Volkswagen and Nissan.
"Major parts producers are making plans to locate or expand in the Chattanooga area to supply the VW plant," said Jack Rogers, editor-in-chief of Business Facilities magazine.
Rogers said the decision by Volkswagen to put its $1 billion plant in Chattanooga has ensured Tennessee as a dominant player in auto manufacturing for years to come.
He also said Nissan has been preparing a $1.6 billion production complex to begin rolling out electric-powered vehicles by late 2012. Nissan's Decherd, Tenn., and Smyrna, Tenn., facilities are playing roles in that effort.
"Long term, the states that are laying the groundwork to be major players in electric vehicles are going to be big winners in the automotive sweepstakes," Rogers said.
About 106,500 Tennesseans are employed in auto manufacturing jobs, according to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of marketing, said economic developers continue to cultivate ties with suppliers.
"With a partner like VW, we'll continue to have opportunities," he said. Marston said the Chattanooga area has attracted 15 suppliers and about 1,000 jobs so far.
Tim Spires, the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association's president, said workforce training is important moving ahead. He mentioned prepping workers at the Volkswagen Academy along with the new mechatronics program to prepare skilled equipment maintenance workers.
"All those continue to help position us to move forward," Spires said.
It's the second consecutive year Tennessee was named by Business Facilities as the No. 1 state for auto manufacturing strength.
Gov. Bill Haslam said the state is always working to improve its business climate and workforce.
He said "it is no accident that so many global automotive manufacturers and suppliers call Tennessee home."
Bill Hagerty, commissioner for economic and community development in Tennessee, said the state has centered its recruitment efforts on six business clusters in which the state has a clear competitive advantage, and the auto industry is one.
"The Business Facilities No. 1 ranking ... further confirms our focus is where it should be to grow Tennessee's economy," he said.
Rogers said Business Facilities revamped its ranking criteria two years ago to give extra weight to a state's growth potential.
The old formula relied almost exclusively on current employment and production statistics, he said. States with long-established auto sectors had dominated the category even if those were in decline, Rogers said.
"We wanted our ranking to reflect the overall strength of the industry in your state and to be a valid indicator of future growth potential," he said.