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The entrance to the Chattanooga Volkswagen assembly plant, located in the Enterprise South industrial park, is seen on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. / Staff file photo

Enterprise South Industrial Park

› Major auto tenants: Volkswagen, Gestamp, Plastic Omnium

› Other key tenants: Amazon, TAG Manufacturing, ADM, eSpin

› History: Developed as the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant in World War II, the military facility was once the largest TNT production plant in the country. It supplied munitions through the Korean and Vietnam wars. City and county acquired it a couple of decades ago.

› 7,353 acres: Size set aside for VAAP and buffer zone

› 900 acres: Property that VW has an option to purchase

› 250 acres: Land city and county are developing for automotive suppliers

› 2,800 acres: Size of Enterprise South Nature Park

Source: News archives

Chattanooga's economic developers are cranking up efforts to nearly double the number of jobs the automotive sector has created at Enterprise South industrial park.

Officials are starting to ready about 250 acres, the biggest single tract of public industrial park space in Hamilton County not already spoken for. The work is aimed at ultimately attracting as many as 2,000 auto supplier jobs to the site.

The parcel, known as the "release area," sits within Enterprise South and was ceded to the city and county by VW in connection with its sport utility vehicle expansion deal unveiled two years ago. Officials see as many as 20 companies potentially landing at the parcel adjacent to the German automaker.

"For us, it's important," said Charles Wood, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of economic development. "That site is driven toward automotive."

The city plans to earmark $100,000 to begin to prepare the undeveloped wooded tract, which still holds old buildings dating back to when Enterprise South land belonged to the U.S. Army a half-century ago.

"They need to be demolished," said Wood. He added that most of the environmental cleanup has been done, though essentially the entire 7,000 acres formerly known as the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant site is considered a brownfield.

Wood said there will have to be a lot of engineering done to prepare the 250 acres adequately in addition to grading work as well as coordination with VW. But, he said, there have been preliminary conversations with prospective companies for the site.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said it and the city are partnering on the development of the parcel, as the two entities have done at Enterprise South over the past couple of decades since securing the Tyner site from the Army.

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He said that periodic meetings with VW indicate the plant's expansion is on schedule to produce the new SUV by year's end despite the automaker's emissions scandal.

"We remain confident that although they've had their issues, we think the SUV and the Passat will be successful," Coppinger said.

Wood said he sees another wave of suppliers locating close to VW as SUV sales ramp up. As the midsize SUV starts hitting sales marks, suppliers not already in Hamilton County will look at when it makes sense to be closer to the factory, he said.

Also, a lot of suppliers service other auto companies, such as Nissan and Mercedes in the region, and they can utilize a new plant to perform that work. In addition, Volvo plans to build a new assembly plant in South Carolina, Wood said.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has completed a road from Highway 58 that runs adjacent to the 250 acres to the back of the existing VW supplier park near the automaker's plant, though the artery isn't open to traffic yet.

Work to complete a final link to that road is slated to start next year. By 2019, the road will provide the most direct connection between Highway 58 and Interstate-75.

A decade ago, Hamilton County had few jobs in the automotive sector. But, the recruitment of the VW plant in 2008 has helped produce a dramatic change.

The plant employs about 2,500 people, and a staffing contractor said last week it plans to hire about 700 more production and logistics workers between now and the end of the year for the SUV.

Also, suppliers Gestamp and Plastic Omnium have plants at Enterprise South. A handful of other companies also operate within a supplier park near the VW plant. In addition, other companies, such as Chinese supplier Yanfeng, have opened nearby or in the region to provide parts to VW and other automakers.

Along with the SUV, top VW officials are looking at producing electric vehicles in Chattanooga by 2020.

"Any expansion of VW whether electric or whatever, we'd love to see that happen here," Coppinger said. "I remain optimistic we can be competitive with anyone else trying to manufacture electric cars in North America. We've proven we can be competitive."

Wood said that VW's Chattanooga plant is in its infancy in terms of automotive production factories.

"The U.S. market is a key market for VW," he said. "There are lots of opportunity for growth."

In addition to the 250 acres aimed at automotive firms, Enterprise South has a few other smaller tracts available for companies not related to the auto sector, Wood said.

Also, about 40 acres at the former Harriet Tubman housing development in Chattanooga is available as industrial park space, though it's oriented more toward light manufacturing because of the adjacent neighborhood, Wood said. The Centre South Riverport also has limited space available, he said.

Additionally, the county is depending on private property to help provide companies with space for new homes, Wood said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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