:Chattanooga; :Dec 4, 2009; :Business; :22

VW eyes nearby distribution center

By Mike Pare mpare@timesfreepress.com

Online: Watch Volkswagen offi cials talk about assembly plant construction. Read previous stories. Comment.

    Volkswagen officials are looking at an off-site parts distribution center in addition to the on-site supplier park to service the $1 billion auto assembly plant.

    The distribution center likely would be within 20 miles of the factory, officials said Thursday.

    “There is a plan to do that,” said Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW’s Chattanooga operations.

    While VW officials declined to give details about the center, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said he hoped it would go inside the county. But if it doesn’t, it’s not uncommon for workers to travel the distance to such a center, he said.

    Concerning the supplier park, Mr. Fischer said it likely will hold hundreds of jobs initially in two buildings. According to VW, it looks as if nine suppliers will initially go into the park.

    The VW official wouldn’t identify companies that might locate in the park. But, Mr. Fischer said, the companies would include those making parts as well as other firms sequencing components which will go into production of the auto.

    Mr. Ramsey also took note the supplier park is moving ahead.

    “That means additional jobs,” he said.

    The county mayor said officials continue to talk with other suppliers that could locate nearby but away from the plant.

    Trevor Hamilton, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for economic development, said with VW’s commitment to the supplier park, he is optimistic about wooing new companies to the city.

    A meeting between Volkswagen and the chief executives of about 100 suppliers earlier this week was favorable, he said.

    Suppliers are dealing with the weak economy, tight bank financing and current overcapacity in the industry, Mr. Hamilton said.


Don Jackson, VW’s president of manufacturing in Chattanooga, said plant construction is on time for an early 2011 opening.

    He said the plant’s assembly building is slated to be weather tight later this month — the last of the three major plant structures to become so.

    Mr. Jackson said more than 1,000 workers will be on site in January or February building the 2 millionsquare-foot plant.

    Hans-Herbert Jagla, VW’s executive vice president of human resources locally, said about 300 employees of the automaker will be on board by the end of 2009. About 45 of the 300 workers will be from Germany, he said.

    Mr. Jagla said VW began putting prospective production employees though the company’s assessment center. He said about 24 people are undergoing the evaluation process each day, which will continue in 2010 as employment ramps up.

    “It will accelerate next year,” Mr. Jagla said.

    Mr. Jagla urged people to be patient as the company brings on about 2,000 workers. About 35,000 online applications were received by VW for about 1,200 production jobs.

Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Frank Fischer, chief executive of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga operations, speaks at a news conference at Enterprise South industrial park Thursday.