CLEVELAND - A German chemical company chose Bradley County over sites in Europe, Asia and the Americas for a $1 billion plant that will make a component of solar cells and electronics, officials said this morning.
Wacker Chemie AG will build a plant to make polycrystalline silicon, a component used in solar panels and semiconductors. It will employ about 600 people in its first phase. The plant will be built in Charleston, Tenn., partly in the county-owned industrial park and partly on privately owned land.
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said negotiations took place over four years to seal the deal.
"You don't know how many times we sneaked Gov. (Phil) Bredesen, Sen. (Bob) Corker and Mr. Kisber (Matt Kisber, commissioner of Economic and Community Development) into the chamber office," Mr. Davis said during the announcement at Lee University this morning.
Mr. Kisber said this is the third $1 billion plant in Tennessee within seven months and the second major investment by a German company. Volkswagen announced in July it would build an assembly plant in Chattanooga.
"The governor and I have become quite the fans of all things German," Mr. Kisber said.
Wacker Chemie is a global company with 15,000 employees and $5 billion in sales last year, officials said.
The Charleston, Tenn., plant is the company's eighth U.S. manufacturing operation, officials said.
Gov. Bredesen and state officials were joined by Wacker Chemie's president and CEO, Dr. Rudolph Staudigl, and Dr. Ingomar Kovar, president of Wacker Chemical Corp., in Adrian, Mich.
"This announcement further enhances Tennessee's growing reputation as an innovation center in the development and manufacture of clean energy technologies," Gov. Bredesen said. "I appreciate Wacker Chemie's investment in Tennessee and its recognition of the productivity of Tennessee workers, and I'm very pleased the company believes this is the best place to enhance its position in this growing economic sector."
The project is expected to create more than 500 new jobs for the region, officials said.
In his state of the state address earlier this month, Gov. Bredesen said he would like for Tennessee to become a center for solar engineering and technology.
See Friday's Times Free Press for complete coverage.