The first nine area engineers have been hired for Wacker Chemical's project team related to its $1.45 billion plant under construction in Bradley County, an official said Monday.
"We want to put local talent into the project team from the very beginning," said Thomas Kastenberg, senior engineer for the plant that the German company aims to finish by late 2013.
Wacker plans to have more than 100 engineers as part of the project team with three-fourths of them German, Kastenberg said.
However, by the time the plant is fully operational in 2014, he expects there will be just 15 to 20 people on assignment from Germany. The plant is to have 650 employees.
Jeff Zierenberg, Wacker's manager of human resources here, said the company is gearing up to hire the first 70 lead chemical operators at the plant.
"They'll be training the others when they come on board," he said.
Kastenberg said the plant, which will make hyperpure polycrystalline silicon for the solar industry, will have "a very sophisticated and advanced process."
"This will truly be a state-of-the-art facility," he said during a Chattanooga Engineers Week kick-off luncheon. "We consider ourselves a technology leader."
Kastenberg termed the plant "a huge facility with a lot of support systems. You just can't start everything up at the same time. It makes for a tight timeline."
But Kastenberg said the company is projecting double-digit growth rates in the sector, of which Wacker already has a 20 percent market share.
"We have to invest in new plants if we want to keep market share," he said.
Kastenberg said environmental sustainability will be a key part of the plant's operation.
"We'll try to reuse as much as possible," he said.