Motown South

From the Desk of the Editor in Chief

Until a few weeks ago, if you had asked us what comes to mind when we think about Tennessee, the answer probably would have been Elvis, sour mash whiskey and great barbeque. Automotive manufacturing just wasn’t high on the list.

That all changed with the stunning announcement that Chattanooga has won the big prize from Volkswagon. The German auto giant, which closed its last U.S. car plant in 1988, is going to build a new facility in Tennessee that is expected to pump more than $1 billion into the local economy.

As we report in this month’s issue, the new VW plant will be built on a 1,350-acre site 12 miles northeast of downtown Chattanooga. It is expected to have an initial production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, including a new midsize sedan that Volkswagon is designing for the North American market. The plant, which is slated to open in 2011, will directly create 2,000 new jobs.

In the fierce competition for the Volkswagon facility, Tennessee topped aggressive bids from Alabama and the traditional automotive powerhouse, Michigan. According to Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, his state prevailed because of Òshared values, [Tennessee’s] commitment to innovation, and [its] strong respect for the environment.Ó Creative application of incentives also sealed the deal.

Bredesen’s confident prediction that the VW plant will positively impact the economy of Tennessee for decades to come is being echoed by industry analysts, who say the state may soon be able to call itself the nation’s number one auto producer.

The famous Chattanooga choo-choo may have gone down the tracks years ago, but the manufacturing future has just been turbo charged in Tennessee.

Jack Rogers