As a lifelong Tennessean, I'm privileged to know firsthand that our state is an incredible place to live, work and raise a family. And as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, it's an honor to have the opportunity to market my home state to companies around the world.
Because of our business-friendly environment, Tennessee is a leading place for foreign direct investment (FDI). More than 1,000 foreign-based establishments operate in Tennessee and provide thousands of Tennesseans with high quality jobs.
One of the state's biggest FDI wins came when Volkswagen chose Chattanooga for its newest automotive assembly plant more than 10 years ago. The decision not only had a positive impact on the Chattanooga area, it boosted the entire state.
According to a recent report, Volkswagen Chattanooga's presence has brought more than 16,400 jobs to Tennessee. Arguably, you could say that the impact of Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant spans the U.S. because for each job, employee and contractor at the facility, 13.6 total jobs are supported across the country.
Since 2008, Volkswagen has invested more than $3 billion in Tennessee. Last July, Volkswagen celebrated 10 years of building cars in Chattanooga, and in January, the company announced it will invest another $800 million and hire an additional 1,000 workers to build its first electric vehicle manufacturing facility in North America.
In 2014, the United Auto Workers (UAW) sought to gain a foothold in Chattanooga, but workers ultimately rejected UAW representation in a plant-wide election. Soon thereafter, Volkswagen added 2,000 jobs and a second production line.
As the UAW seeks yet another vote at the same facility, I believe it is part of my job as the state's chief recruiting officer to share with you how this could negatively affect our state's recruitment efforts.
When I speak with companies about choosing the Volunteer State, they are always impressed by the advantages of doing business here. Tennessee is one of only nine states with no income tax on wages, we offer a pro-business culture with a skilled workforce, and we are a right-to-work state with low union participation. Those may be things that we take for granted, but I can promise you they do not go unnoticed by corporate decision-makers looking for the next place to call home.
While it is ultimately the decision of the workers at the plant, I truly believe that allowing unionization to occur at Volkswagen could negatively impact the livelihoods of thousands more Tennesseans.
It is my hope that the employees will once again strongly reject the union so that, together, we can ensure Chattanooga continues to be the city that you are proud to call home.
Bob Rolfe serves as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.