City on German industrial 'radar'

City on German industrial 'radar'

August 25th, 2009 by Mike Pare in Business

Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton Schaaf Industrie AG of Germany has bought Aerisyn LLC's wind turbine tower plant off Riverfront Parkway with plans to add 120 jobs and invest $3 million.

Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton Schaaf Industrie AG of...

Schaaf Industrie AG's acquisition of wind turbine tower maker Aerisyn's Chattanooga plant marks the third entry by a German manufacturing company into the area in the last 13 months.

"We're getting on the international radar screen," said Mayor Ron Littlefield.

SIAG, headquartered in Dernbach, Germany, is ramping up hiring at the Riverfront Parkway plant, said Bernd Becker, SIAG Aerisyn's new president.

Plans are to immediately hire five people and eventually bring on 115 others, he said. The plant employs about 90 people.

Mr. Becker said the majority of the workers will hold "blue collar, skilled trade" jobs. Wages will be "above average for Chattanooga and Hamilton County," Mr. Becker said.

Rudiger Schaaf, SIAG's chief executive who started the business with his wife about 30 years ago, said many people are talking about China, but he likes North America's future.

"We believe in the U.S. market," he said.

Officials said SIAG's planned $3 million investment in the plant is not connected to recent infusions of German money into the area, such as by Volkswagen and Wacker Chemical.

But Matt Kisber, state Economic and Community Development commissioner, said Chattanoogans and Tennesseans are increasingly knowledgeable of closer German ties.

"Willkommen is a word they know well," he said, referring to the German word for "welcome."

Mr. Kisber said he once had to tell prospects where Chattanooga is located.

"Global firms such as SIAG know where Chattanooga is and like what they see," he said.

Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, speaking before a large group of Aerisyn workers at the plant, said officials are as interested in the expansion as when they recruited the manufacturer in 2005.

"A lot of the future of the factory is in your hands," he told employees.

Mr. Schaaf said his company started with just 20 employees, but he hopes to have up to 1,400 next year. The company expects annual revenues to hit $307 million.

The wind towers Aerisyn makes are 26 stories high, according to the company.