published Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Volkswagen supplier holds jobs fair in Chattanooga

Jonathon Peternell interviews Tuesday with Leslie Cameron of MAU Workforce Solutions, looking to hire workers for a supplier to Volkswagen.
Jonathon Peternell interviews Tuesday with Leslie Cameron of MAU Workforce Solutions, looking to hire workers for a supplier to Volkswagen.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Volkswagen currently has two 223,200-square-foot buildings in the supplier park adjacent to its Chattanooga plant. An engineering company was recently hired to plan for as many as four other buildings, but no construction is imminent, officials said.

Evelyn Donegan works at the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant in Chattanooga, but the company has announced it's planning layoffs.

On Tuesday, she showed up at MAU Workforce Solutions to apply for a job for a company that's a supplier to the Volkswagen auto assembly plant.

"I've done several things," said the Chattanooga woman, citing her background at a number of different jobs. "I believe in learning how to do various things."

MAU, a recruiting and staffing company, was expected to interview about 100 people Tuesday for 50 jobs for a VW supplier it didn't want to immediately identify.

Some VW suppliers are ratcheting up hiring as the German automaker's Chattanooga plant brings on a third team of employees to produce even more cars.

Jeff Fuller, general manager of Chattanooga Seating Systems, said Tuesday he's looking to add workers, though he wasn't sure how many yet. Currently, the company that supplies seats for the Chattanooga-made Passat sedan has 120 employees.

"I'm looking to tool up my shift," he said. "We mirror [VW] exactly."

Also, a logistics company which recently won a contract with VW plans to add 150 new jobs to help handle the inventorying and sequencing of parts which go into the cars.

Jans Kappei, chief executive for Team 3, said officials hoped to be up to about 500 workers by midsummer. He, too, cited VW's plans to add 1,000 people to its Chattanooga plant by year's end, bringing the factory's total head count to about 3,500.

VW is adding not only to its work force but extending its hours of operation. Officials have said that while plans are to maintain two shifts a day, the plant will add Saturday production. Also, the factory will move to a four-day, 10-hour-a-day schedule for employees around midyear.

Frank Fischer, VW's chief in Chattanooga, said earlier that about $7 million in changes are being made inside the plant to speed the assembly line to make about 170,000 vehicles a year, up from 150,000. He's also hopeful of the plant assembling a second vehicle in the future.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he hopes VW will continue to add more staff and products at the $1 billion assembly plant.

"We'd love to see Volkswagen expand even more than what they have," Haslam said in an interview this week with reporters and editors of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Tom Edd Wilson, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, said the auto industry's supplier network was hurt by the Great Recession and still is influenced. Access to capital and excess capacity at other plants plagued supplier companies, he said.

"I still see a continued build up of suppliers coming here," Wilson added.

Jonathon Peternell of Chattanooga, who was at MAU's job fair, said he's currently working 50 to 60 hours a week at two part-time jobs.

"I'm tired of working so hard and getting paid minimum wage," he said.

Nyree Taylor, another job hopeful, said she has experience in the auto sector in Detroit.

"I'm used to that industry," the Chattanooga woman said.

Zach Brewster, MAU's operations manager in Chattanooga, said plans are to conduct interviews for the automotive slots later in the week as well. According to MAU, the posts pay $11 per hour.

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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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