The first Volkswagen construction trailers landed at the automaker's planned Chattanooga assembly plant as work geared up Wednesday on VW's initial big investment in the site.
At peak construction, more than 160 workers will muster at Enterprise South industrial park as they erect the plant's $30 million paint shop, officials said.
"We'll pour concrete next week," said Thilo Brockhaus, VW's construction project manager for the $1 billion plant. "The building will be weather-tight in September of this year."
The paint shop is going up first because it's the most complicated of the three production buildings planned at the 1,300-acre tract, he said.
"That's why this is a critical part of the schedule," Mr. Brockhaus said.
After September, workers will install the sophisticated equipment to make the paint shop run, Mr. Brockhaus said.
While site prep has gone on at Enterprise South since mid-2008, the lion's share of the cost was paid by Chattanooga, Hamilton County and Tennessee as part of the incentives to woo the company.
Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey cited VW's commitment to the project amid the recession.
"It goes back to what VW said. They're still moving along," he said at the site as rain cut short the work Wednesday.
Up to 1,000 vehicles a day could be handled by the paint shop once the assembly plant is in full operation, officials said.
Michigan-based Walbridge was hired to build the paint shop. As construction begins, Walbridge is committed to a local and diverse supplier base, said VW spokeswoman Jill Bratina.
VW's extensive bidding process for the project required every bidder to affirm it would subcontract with at least 10 percent minority- or women-owned businesses, she said. Walbridge's submission exceeded this target, Ms. Bratina said.
Mr. Brockhaus lauded the site prep.
"This is the perfect site," he said, noting the building pad is draining well. Later this year, work is set to start on the body and assembly buildings as well as a training center.