Sen. Bob Corker sees 'tremendous opportunity' for VW additions in Chattanooga

Sen. Bob Corker sees 'tremendous opportunity' for VW additions in Chattanooga

October 11th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

U. S. Senator Bob Corker delivers the keynote address at the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Monday.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said in Chattanooga on Monday he sees "tremendous opportunity" regarding future additions by Volkswagen in the city.

Asked if that includes a potential Audi auto assembly plant, the Tennessee Republican said VW has found Chattanooga "the kind of place they can flourish. I think they will and I think there will be more happen here."

Corker, in remarks after the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association's annual meeting, said he has ongoing talks with Volkswagen Group of America CEO Jonathan Browning.

"We have each other's cellphone numbers," he said, adding that VW's corporate culture fits Chattanooga.

Audi, which is Volkswagen AG's luxury brand, needs North American capacity and Chattanooga has reserved 1,200 acres in the Enterprise South Industrial Park for a second VW auto plant.

Martin Winterkorn, VW's chief executive, said at the Chattanooga assembly plant's grand opening in May that officials may have a decision related to Audi production in North America within a year.

Audi also is reportedly looking at building an engine and transmission plant in North America, one the company could share with the VW brand division. From January through September, Audi delivered 84,981 cars to U.S. customers, 15.5 percent more than during the same period of 2010, the company reported.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press The two buildings in Volkswagen's supplier park in the foreground are part of more than 1,100 acres VW is using for its automobile assembly plant at the Enterprise South industrial park. Most of the available industrial sites in the former Volunteer Army Ammunitions Plant have been bought or optioned.

In addition, Browning has said VW has the ability to expand the Chattanooga plant from producing 150,000 vehicles annually to 250,000 by adding lines in its paint shop. Also, by building a mirror image of the plant on land at Enterprise South already committed to VW, production could hit 500,000 units, he said.

During a luncheon address to a crowd of nearly 600 manufacturers, Corker called the National Labor Relations Board "totally out of control," citing the panel's complaint related to a Boeing aircraft assembly line in South Carolina.

"This is not even good for union folks," Corker said. "It doesn't even work well for labor."

NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon filed a complaint that Boeing illegally put its second 787 Dreamliner assembly line in South Carolina in retaliation for past strikes in the Puget Sound area of Washington state.

The Boeing case is pending before an administrative law judge, who is to decide whether to order Boeing to move the South Carolina production plant to Washington.

Corker, who received the highest award Monday from the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association, said he'd like to see the so-called deficit super committee take up a handful of issues and find $3 trillion more in cuts.

He said the panel ought to address tax reform, Medicare and regulatory overhaul. Also, the former Chattanooga mayor said he'd like to see a six-year highway bill.

Dan Nuckolls of Koch Foods, the outgoing chairman of the Chattanooga manufacturers group, said the manufacturers association has expanded to about six counties since announcing a year ago it was broadening its reach outside Hamilton.

Tim Spires, CRMA's chief, said the business group wants controlled growth.

Bill Minehan, chairman of AdTech Ceramics in Chattanooga, was named the CRMA's new chairman.

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