Group lambastes public spending on Volkswagen sign, EPB Internet service

Group lambastes public spending on Volkswagen sign, EPB Internet service

June 26th, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

Guenther Scherelis, General Manager of Communication for Volkswagen in Chattanooga

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - A state grant for a massive $266,000 "Volkswagen Chattanooga" sign and EPB's venture into cable and high-speed broadband Internet are among targets skewered in a "Tennessee Pork Report."

Issued today by the Beacon Center, a state-based government watchdog group that advocates free-market approaches to public policy, the report cites the two projects among dozens of examples of what they say is $468 million in wasteful spending across the state during the past year.

"The VW Chattanooga plant got $266,000 to put a sign on its roof to market to passengers flying in and out of the Chattanooga airport," Beacon CEO Justin Owen said at a news conference. "The only problem? There are about 600 people who fly in and out of that airport every day. This is a pathetic waste of taxpayer money."

The sign on the German auto manufacturer's Chattanooga plant came out of $2 million in state funds Tennessee committed to Volkswagen for marketing and public relations. It was as part of the state and local incentive package totaling more than $500 million officials used to lure VW to Southeast Tennessee.

"If 600 people in airplanes are not sufficient, there are 600 million more who will be able to watch on Google Earth and recognize that Chattanooga was attractive to one of the biggest car manufacturers worldwide to create more than 3,000 jobs there," said Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communication for Volkswagen in Chattanooga.

"This is a good marketing initiative for the city, the state and the company," he said.

Owen also took aim at the city's municipal electric service, EPB, for spending "ratepayer money and taxpayer money on ultra-high speed Internet."

"I think that Hong Kong is one of the only other places in the world that has that level of Internet," Owen said.

EPB offers Internet speeds of up to one gigabit per second.

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.