VW visitors center contract OK'd

VW visitors center contract OK'd

May 6th, 2009 by Mike Pare in Business

Staff Photo by John Rawlston The framework of the Volkswagen paint shop rises high into the air as work continues at the site of the company's vehicle assembly plant at the Enterprise South Industrial Park on Tuesday.

Staff Photo by John Rawlston The framework of the...

A temporary visitors center, designed to permit people to see construction of Chattanooga's largest-ever manufacturing investment, will start going up soon, officials said Tuesday.

A Soddy-Daisy company, O.C. Construction, was awarded a $119,000 contract to build the 900-square-foot center overlooking work at the $1 billion Volkswagen auto assembly plant.

"It's the best vantage point," said Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator, about the center's construction site on a rise above the massive, cleared building area.

He told the Industrial Development Board the building differs from the $6 million welcome center slated near Interstate-75. Work on that project will begin later.

Mr. Leach said the visitors center will be situated so people can see the 1.9 million-square-foot auto factory rise out of the ground and be away from the construction.

In all, the center is to cost about $200,000 and be paid for from state funds, he said.

Work is expected to start soon on the building and be finished in June, said Gene Settles, director of the city's purchasing office. He said the O.C. Construction bid was the lowest.

Mr. Settles said it's anticipated the rest of the money in the budget for the center will be spent.

When work starts on the visitors center, it will mark the fourth VW building on which construction has begun at Enterprise South industrial park. Construction has already begun on the plant's three key manufacturing buildings - the paint, body and assembly shops.

Rick Ebersole, who toured the plant site with other board members Tuesday, said it is good to see that VW is committed to the plant's construction amid the down economy.

"It's a heck of a plant," he said.

Mr. Ebersole said VW's economics for constructing what will be its only United States assembly factory are "completely solid."

He said VW, unlike some other automakers, is still making money, and there will be pent-up demand for new cars when the economy turns around.

The plant is slated to open in early 2011 producing a midsize sedan and employ about 2,000 workers.

Up to 30 percent of vehicles made in the Chattanooga VW assembly plant are expected to have clean diesel technology, officials have said.