Corker Says Talks On VW Expansion Renewed 3 Days After UAW Vote; Coppinger Says Deal To Bring $1.5 Million More For Schools

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

At a celebration Tuesday afternoon for the expansion of Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant, Senator Bob Corker said talks were renewed on the SUV project three days after plant employees narrowly rejected the United Auto Workers on April 21.

He said they were wrapped up by June 13.

Volkswagen, which plans a $600 investment at the site in connection with the expansion, will continue to receive tax abatements on real and property except for the school tax.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the expansion means $1.5 million more per year for the county schools. That brings the annual total from VW for the county schools to $4.3 million.

VW will continue to have an option to buy an additional 1,200 acres at Enterprise South through 2026.

The event drew a large crowd to the Hunter Museum - the same spot where it was first announced six years ago that Volkswagen would be building the Passat at the Enterprise South Industrial Park.

On the podium were VW officials, Senator Corker, Senator Lamar Alexander, Governor Bill Haslam, Mayor Andy Berke and County Mayor Coppinger.

Both Governor Haslam and Senator Alexander said, "We would not be standing here today were it not for Bob Corker."

The former Chattanooga mayor in turn praised the role of Governor Haslam, saying he has been his friend for over 40 years "and I've never been prouder of him."

He also praised the work of his top aide, Todd Womack, on the Volkswagen project.

Senator Corker made an allusion to the recent UAW controversy in which he was at odds with then-Chattanooga plant manager Frank Fischer. He said Volkswagen is partially government owned and has many stockholders.

He said, "It is sometimes confusing and sometimes somebody stands up and speaks for the company when they are actually speaking for themselves."

Christian Koch, the new plant manager, said the decision "is proof that we are here to stay."

He said locally based engineers will be working on changes to the 2015 Passat as well as an extensive redesign for 2016. He said they will also be keeping a close eye on trends in the American market and will be responding.

Senator Alexander said the decision to locate the research and design center at the Chattanooga plant marks the first such facility in the South. He said of the possibility of future such centers, "If it started in Chattanooga, it may end up in Chattanooga."  

Senator Corker recognized Senator Alexander as "the father of the auto industry in Tennessee."

Mayor Berke  said, "The eyes of the world are on Chattanooga."

A representative of Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said he was not present because "he's in D.C. voting. They had a large series of financial services appropriations votes and a vote on the highway trust fund."


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