Volkswagen Chose Chattanooga Due To Infrastructure, Site Readiness, Core Values

Incentive Package Called "Attractive, Comprehensive",

  • Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Volkswagen officials said they chose Chattanooga for a new U.S. plant because of the infrastructure in place at the Enterprise South Industrial Park and the readiness of the site. They said "core values" were also an important item.

Concerning incentives, VW officials said Tennessee offered "an attractive, comprehensive package."

The "statutory incentives are tied to job creation and capital investments," it was stated.

Additional support includes "assistance for public infrastructure and job training, each designed to insure the local economy best leverages Volkswagen's investment to beneft the local workforce and ensure the facility's success."

Officials declined to give any specifics about the incentives the state, city and county offered.

Stephan Jacoby, Volkswagen of America president, said the VW site assessment team was impressed with many "intangibles" about Chattanooga, including its livability, sustainability focus, mountain and river setting and environmental record.

There are to be about 2,000 jobs at the plant along with "a significant number of jobs in related sectors."

VW officials said they had "three excellent sites" to choose from, including a location near Huntsville, Ala., and one in Michigan.

The firm plans to produce 150,000 automobiles initially, but hopes to eventually produce a million VWs in America annually.

A large, enthusiastic crowd gathered in the lobby of the Hunter Museum for the official announcement.

Gov. Phil Bredesen and Mr. Jacoby entered triumphantly down a set of stairs leading to the lobby.

Matt Kisber, state economic development director, said, "I cannot think of a better day for Chattanooga and the entire state of Tennessee."

He called it one of the most significant economic development announcements he has been a part of.

He said state and local officials worked very cooperatively with VW officials during the seven-month process leading to the selection.

Commissioner Kisber, who worked on the final stages of the negotiations, while on a family vacation, said it was "a very detailed and complex process."

He said Chattanooga's focus on sustainability was in line with Volkswagen's philosophy and helped give the city an edge.

Mr. Jacoby told the crowd to the accompaniment of cheers, "Volkswagen is going a U.S. plant in Chattanooga."

He added, "It feels good to finally be able to say that."

Mr. Jacoby said the company wanted to find a community where "the heritage and values" were in line with those of Volkswagen. He said, "We have found an ideal home."

He said he was impressed by Chattanooga's "vision of a clean, healthy city along with the protection of its natural beauty."

He said the local development team "worked very hard and made it easy for us to choose Chattanooga."

Mr. Jacoby, who joined the firm in 1985 and later headed up operations in Asia, said, "You can be assured we will be a very reliable partner."

County Mayor Claude Ramsey said, "They gave me two minutes to talk about 15 years of my life. What a great day."

He said there was a long process "to turn an old site into a place that will provide family-wage jobs."

He addressed "all the naysayers who said it would never happen" and "the County Commission that has been very patient with me as I spent a great deal of your money."

Mayor Rob Littlefield said, "I don't really think it gets any better than this."

He said local and state officials "had a seamless partnership with Volkswagen and that is the way it is going to continue."

Mayor Littlefield said he long ago owned both a VW bug and bus and "some of our fondest family memories" were in trips in those vehicles.

He said he had promised his wife he will buy her a new Volkswagen.

Gov. Bredesen told the group that when he and his wife came to Tennessee from the North they made the trip in a VW.

Sen. Bob Corker said the announcement represents a breakthrough for Chattanooga "re-establishing the city as the Dynamo of the South."

He said the development pairs "one of America's most admired companies with one of America's most livable cities."

Sen. Lamar Alexander said Tennessee is now on its way to becoming the number one state in the country for auto manufacturing.

Rep. Zach Wamp said the announcement was the result of years of "dreams, plans, goals and aspirations."

He said much of the credit should go to Mr. Ramsey.

Rep. Wamp noted that Sen. Alexander played "Chattanooga Choo Choo" on the piano during a recent event for VW officials at the Riverview home of Sen. Corker. He said he asked Mr. Jacoby how much of a factor that was in the decision, "and he told me it was 90 percent."

County Commission Chairman Bill Hullander said it was exciting to have the announcement come during his term as chairman and to secure the huge plant in his district.

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