Volkswagen is slated to have two full production shifts in operation this month at its Chattanooga auto assembly plant.
In perhaps the strongest signal yet of confidence that Volkswagen will grow its Chattanooga presence, the city plans to spend millions of dollars to upgrade its sewer system at Enterprise South industrial park.
"VW keeps talking about doubling its size. Amazon is coming," said Jerry Stewart, Chattanooga's director of waste resources. "We're looking down the road."
Stewart said he hopes to start work in about 60 days on a $7.5 million sewer upgrade at the industrial park that is home to the two companies. He said he believes the city is in line to receive a $1.3 million federal Economic Development Administration grant for the project. The city will put up the remainder, Stewart said.
The sewer expansion will more than double the amount of waste the city's Enterprise South pump station and infrastructure can handle daily, he said. Currently, it can accommodate about 1 million gallons a day. After the upgrade, that figure will go to some 2.5 million gallons daily.
J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of marketing, said the city has worked to position itself for possible VW expansion.
"We feel very good about the prospects that as VW grows its market share in the U.S., that will position us to have a good shot," he said.
The VW plant, with about 2,000 employees, uses a portion of the 1,340 acres on which the factory sits. While the existing facility was built to produce 150,000 cars a year, VW officials have said they could easily grow the annual plant capacity to more than 200,000.
VW officials also have said they could build a plant mirroring the existing one and double capacity to 500,000 vehicles annually.
The German automaker has an option on an additional 1,000 adjacent acres at Enterprise South.
VW's premium subsidiary, Audi, has indicated it, too, will build cars in North America, and automotive analysts said Chattanooga has a chance at the plant.
While VW is ramping up assembly of its all-new Passat in Chattanooga for a September market introduction, Amazon is on a fast track to open its 1 million-square-foot distribution center by Christmas.
When fully staffed, the Amazon facility could employ more than 2,000 full- and part-time workers, the nation's No. 1 Internet retailer said.
Stewart said Archer Daniels Midland, the newest company to land at Enterprise South, is clearing its tract for a new facility. The foods processor is building a warehouse and terminal to transfer sweeteners from rail cars to trucks for delivery to its customers.
Chuck Hammonds, the Southeast Tennessee Development District's director of community development, said the regional agency is helping the city secure the EDA grant.
"You've got to show job creation [for EDA grants]," he said.
In addition to the 1,000 acres VW has under option, there are about 65 acres at Enterprise South that are not committed.
Stewart said the growth potential at Enterprise South is significant. VW's Enterprise South supplier park already houses more than a half-dozen companies.
"I don't think there's been an end to [VW] suppliers," Stewart said.