Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant will hold the most advanced auto paint shop in the world and is an indicator of the company's green commitment, an official said Tuesday.
"What we do in Chattanooga is probably better than any plant in the world," said Dieter Schleifer, VW's manager of plant infrastructure in Chattanooga.
Mr. Schleifer, speaking at a roundtable of business people and public officials here, said the automaker takes green beyond complying with regulations.
"Energy savings is a key to saving money," he said. "We try to build energy-efficient buildings."
Mr. Schleifer talked about VW's $1 billion plant at the roundtable by Tennessee Business Leaders for a Clean Economy.
The group is going to Tennessee's major cities and listening to business people and others as the federal government weighs new energy legislation.
Tennessee has the third-fastest growing clean-energy economy behind Washington and Oregon, said Cortney Piper, who is working with the business group.
"It's necessary for the U.S. to have 2010 energy policies," she said.
Wayne Cropp, chief executive of the city's Enterprise Center, said there are a lot of opportunities for small business to become involved in alternative energy.
"It's important in Tennessee we seek to be on the cutting edge," he said.
Andy Perez of the firm 423 Venture Capital said Chattanooga has a good story to tell when it comes to the environment. He cited a 1968 news report calling the city's air the nation's worst.
"When you're trying to raise capital, a story matters," Mr. Perez said at the roundtable facilitated by Jim Frierson of the Chattanooga Green Committee.
Don Lepard, president of a Chattanooga company that makes energy-efficient products, said his firm sought federal stimulus money aimed at growing environmental companies. While his business was the only one to apply for a specific pool of money, the company was denied as the funds were allocated to research and development and nothing for manufacturing, he said.
Volkswagen says the paint shop at its Chattanooga plant will sport the newest technology, such as a dry filtration system rather than a typical wet one.
"Stimulus funding has been misappropriated," Mr. Lepard said.
Dave Crockett, who heads the city's Office of Sustainability, said officials hope Chattanooga will be "the city that helps every other city and every other company to become green."
"We want to be the partner to help them achieve their goal to become sustainable," he said.
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