Volkswagen Chattanooga woos more minority suppliers

Volkswagen Chattanooga woos more minority suppliers

November 16th, 2017 by Mike Pare in Business

Volkswagen employees perform checks on vehicles as they move down the assembly line at the Volkswagen Assembly Plant Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Art Reamey said he drove about 9 1/2 hours from metropolitan Detroit to Chattanooga to take part in Volkswagen's minority supplier trade show Wednesday.

Reamey, a senior project engineer for Pyramid Quality Solutions and Innovations, said he's hopeful the quality and industrial engineering consulting company can land business with VW in Chattanooga or a major supplier for the automaker.

According to VW, about 60 suppliers had planned to take part in its diversity supplier trade show at the Convention Center. Minority- and women-owned firms were trying to connect with the automaker and some of the so-called "tier one" companies with which it does business.

KeeKee Mathis, supplier diversity manager for Volkswagen Chattanooga, said the automaker has a 10 percent goal for all purchasing.

In 2016, the company hit 11 percent for production purchasing and 10 percent for general purchases, she said.

Last year, about $146 million in contracts went to minority-owned companies, Mathis said. That included companies from the Chattanooga area and others across the country, she said.

Mathis said supplier diversity aligns with Volkswagen's core values of fairness and equal opportunity. She said efforts to reach VW's 2017 goals are "trending quite well."

Michael Adams, the owner and executive chef at Chattanooga's Blue Orleans Seafood Restaurant, said he'd like to secure some VW catering business.

"I feel like there's opportunity," he said.

Reamey said his company ultimately would like to open a training center in the Chattanooga area to teach some of the technical skills that manufacturers such as VW and its suppliers need.

He said he has heard that the businesses have "dried up the technical pool" in the area and there's a need to get more people certified in terms of quality technicians and inspectors.

Also, Reamey said, his company could teach people what he called manufacturing "plant etiquette" when they go work for a business.

"A lot of people ... don't realize how demanding manufacturing is," he said.

Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant currently employs 3,450 people. It produces the Atlas sport utility vehicle and Passat midsize sedan.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.