VW, Bredesen talk in Germany of his successor

NASHVILLE -- Part of Gov. Phil Bredesen's purpose in meeting top Volkswagen officials this week was to begin planning to get his successor quickly up to speed on the German manufacturer's needs at the auto assembly plant it is building in Chattanooga.

"Volkswagen asked if I would come over one more time as governor," Gov. Bredesen, who leaves office in seven months, told reporters last week as he prepared to leave for Germany. "They want to talk about some of the longer-range things."

He and top Volkswagen officials are "very interested" in seeing that "when a new governor is elected (we) really take some time and get him and his team sort of introduced and brought into the circle of a number of these projects that we have been working," Gov. Bredesen said.

Major Republican candidates running for governor are U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, who face voters in the Aug. 5 GOP primary. Democrat Mike McWherter has no opposition.

Guenther Scherelis, Volkswagen's communications manager, said VW officials "expect the continuation of the good relations with Tennessee and its elected officials."

He said the meetings earlier this week included Frank Fischer, CEO of Volkswagen's Chattanooga operations, as well as a company board member.

More than 3,000 workers are building Volkswagen's $1 billion, 2 million-square-foot plant at Enterprise South. The company plans to produce a midsize sedan early next year.

The state offered a variety of tax credits and infrastructure and worker-training incentives not only to Volkswagen but to major VW suppliers agreeing to locate in the Chattanooga area or other parts of Tennessee.

Mark Drury, a spokesman for the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said part of the trip's purpose was to work on attracting more suppliers to Chattanooga or other parts of Tennessee.

The chairman of the Hamilton County legislative delegation, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said state officials and whoever becomes the next governor will recognize state commitments to Volkswagen and continue to push economic development.

"I don't see any policy change from this legislature, and I don't see any policy change from a new administration," said Sen. Watson, in whose district the VW plant is located.

Gov. Bredesen was scheduled to leave Germany today and continue to Spain, where Tennessee officials will meet with their Spanish counterparts to discuss clean energy.

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