It's official, the SUV - and real jobs - are ours

It's official, the SUV - and real jobs - are ours

July 15th, 2014 in Opinion Times

VW CrossBlue is shown at the 2103 North American International Auto Show.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

What a relief to finally get to write that the new Volkswagen SUV will, in fact, be built in Chattanooga.

The announcement, made Monday morning in Wolfsburg, Germany, has been expected -- hoped for would be a better description -- since last year.

At times -- with all thepolitical grandstanding -- the jobs and economic development such an announcement would bring seemed dangerously close to slipping out of our future.

But VW seemed committed to Chattanooga even when some of our elected leaders did not.

Happily for the Chattanooga area, the final announcement was even better than we expected, with nearly twice as many new jobs as previously discussed. Volkswagen will invest $600 million and create 2,000 new jobs to produce its new mid-size CrossBlue sport utility vehicle at the VW assembly plant at Enterprise South where the Passat is made.

The company also will build a new research and development center that will employ 200 in Chattanooga. In all, it's quite a commitment -- nearly doubling the size and workforce of the plant here.

Martin Winterkorn, VW's chief executive, said plans are to start production of the seven-seat CrossBlue in late 2016.

While Republican state lawmakers and Tennessee's GOP governor, Bill Haslam, played keep-away with state incentives for the plant's expansion because they couldn't seem to understand how to retool their cheap-labor and anti-union industrial recruitment messages if the United Auto Workers helped VW craft a works council, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke stayed the course.

When state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, called VW's works council plan "un-American," when the governor withdrew the incentives documents, and when U.S. Sen. Bob Corker made statements tying a union vote to the SUV's announcement, Berke sent a letter to VW stating the city would stand by its incentives commitment.

Yesterday from Germany, Berke called Volkswagen one of Chattanooga's largest and most valued employers and said finally securing this announcement had been "an incredibly trying process."

"From day one, the city and county have worked hard to see today become a reality, when we can announce that Volkswagen will be adding more jobs, more investment and expanding their presence in Chattanooga," he said.

Later today, as Berke and County Mayor Jim Coppinger and other elected officials formally talk about the new jobs at a news conference at the Hunter Museum of American Art, they also will observe the six-year anniversary of the initial Volkswagen announcement on July 15, 2008.

That initial investment by VW -- and by us as taxpayers -- has grown exponentially.

A University of Tennessee at Knoxville study last year showed that Volkswagen Chattanooga had created 12,400 full-time jobs, is responsible for $643.1 million in annual income and has attracted 17 supplier companies to the area. This new investment will add a second line to the existing manufacturing facility.

Surely this time, should certain Tennessee lawmakers think about posturing over a union vote or labor issues or some other political agenda, they will reconsider and realize that, in fact, they are voting for jobs.

After all, this isno longer speculative.

Now, this clearly is real jobs.