published Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

Chattanooga: VW shifts initial work to March

  • photo
    Staff Photo by John Rawlston Heavy construction equipment creates a flurry of activity on Wednesday afternoon at the site of the Volkswagen plant being built at Enterprise South industrial park in Chattanooga.

Groundbreaking for Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant has shifted to March, a couple of months later than the January timeframe the company initially planned.

According to Volkswagen personnel, board members for the German automaker want to take part in the groundbreaking but can’t fit it into their schedules this month.

“The board members for Volkswagen AG want to attend and, unfortunately, we couldn’t get all the schedules to coordinate until March,” said Jill Bratina, Volkswagen Group of America’s corporate communications director.

The event is “a ceremonial groundbreaking,” and construction on the $1 billion auto assembly plant at Enterprise South industrial park is ongoing, she said.

“The project is still on schedule,” Ms. Bratina said.

Progress also continues on refitting office space in downtown Chattanooga for VW, said David Barrueta, who is leasing space in Chestnut Tower on Chestnut Street.

Volkswagen is leasing three floors of the building at 605 Chestnut St. so it will have space to hold up to 140 workers, including its top local leadership.

The 30,000 square feet also will be used for VW’s purchasing and administrative support functions, according to Volkswagen. In addition, there could be a Volkswagen sign placed on the building.

David Unruh, project director for the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group RiverCity Co., said the move will introduce a lot of vendors and suppliers to the central city.

“Some vendors and suppliers may want to locate downtown,” he said. “It sends a nice message to potential new restaurants and retailers. We’re so fortunate that, given the economy and that kind of thing, we have robust employers in downtown.”

The “German school” promised to VW officials by Hamilton County Schools administrators will open at Normal Park Museum Magnet when classes resume this month, officials have said. So far, five students have registered for its classes, officials said, but no one is sure how many to expect or what grades they will be in.

About two weeks ago, VW named Michigan-based builder Walbridge as the general contractor for the plant’s $30 million paint shop. Walbridge and its subcontractors will build the foundation and put up the steel, siding and roofing for the shop, expected to be weather-tight by the end of September.

Workers already have the building pads for the 1.9 million-square-foot facility essentially ready. However, they continue to move dirt at other parts of the 1,340-acre site.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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Simius said...

Didn't they have an emergency cost-cutting meeting in Germany just weeks ago? And now the plant--that was already on a very agressive schedule--is to have its groundbreaking "delayed" by two months just so some geezers can attend?

You heard it here first: This project is DOA. There will not be a VW plant in Chattanooga any time soon. VW is a minor player in the US market, plauged by quality problems (think Big 3). In the current economic environment, it is self-evident that there is no way they will go forward if they have any business knowledge at all.

Yes, they awarded a contract to build the paint facility, which represents only 3% of the project, hasn't and now won't start anytime soon, and probably has a cancellation clause. So what, a company of VW's size can easily risk that amount (30M) to keep their options open (and our tax dollars flowing into this boondoggle). It's not risked until it's spent, though, and they haven't done that.

No, we are the only real "investors" right now, hanging ourselves out on a limb for low-paying jobs at a company making a product not many of us buy.

Not convinced? If Toyota has suspended their MS operation indefinitely, what makes anyone think lowly VW will go ahead with this? Seriously.

They've already got a scapegoat, too. When they hang their heads and apologize about it being cancelled and our huge investment loss, they will carefully note that it was our so-called bailout of OUR OWN automotive industry that forced them to do it. They simply couldn't compete.

January 4, 2009 at 10 p.m.
knighthawk said...

While it is a shame the ceremony was postponed, it's good news that construction is still proceeding. It's a sign that the plans for Chattanooga were "re-approved" at that emergency cost-cutting meeting.

VW might be a small player in the US, but they're #3 in the world, with a desire to become #1. They need this plant in the US & the new car designed for the US market to make that happen. They're big in all other markets, so that growth must come here & the new plant will be a big selling point.

It's a great time to build a plant while construction is slow everywhere else & also to get a supplier network built-up. If the plant comes on-line in early 2011 like they plan, it might be perfect to catch the wave as the market comes back.

January 5, 2009 at 11:12 a.m.
Humphrey said...

Porsche took over vw today - wonder if they will have to delay again so porsche's top execs can attend?

January 6, 2009 at 8:49 p.m.
rappolee said...

A product I would like to buy from VW would be a SUV or stationwagen that would be a diesal/eletric hybrid thats also is a plug in.

January 11, 2009 at 1:04 p.m.
jsmith1427 said...

Since Porsche took over the VW, Vw AG decided to buy a 42 % spot in the sports car model of debt-ridden Mercedes Automobile Positioning SE. This was the important step in mixing the two In German car designers.

With Porsche repair on panel, the Vw number of organizations now features some of the best-known brands: Mercedes, Bentley, Bugatti, Skoda, Chair and Lamborghini.

December 22, 2011 at 1:56 a.m.
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