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Volkswagen deemed a "game changer" for Chattanooga

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

They've produced more than 250,000 cars, created more than 12,000 jobs, and is responsible for bringing in billions of dollars in revenue to the Scenic City.

Five years ago, Volkswagen executives announced they had selected Chattanooga for their new automobile manufacturing facility. Since then, the plant has grown into one of the largest VW manufacturers in the country.     

The German automaker has brought thousands of jobs to Chattanooga paying an average salary of $50,000 a year, but local leaders say its impact has not stopped there. We're looking into why many say Volkswagen's been a "gamer changer" for the city as a whole over the last five years.

It was an emotional win for state and local leaders who worked fervently for a decade to bring a big industry to Chattanooga. During that time, they lost out on a Toyota plant.

Once the plant was up and running, the rest of the country took notice to the quality of work coming out of it. Motor Trend Magazine named the Passat 2012 Car of the Year, shining a positive light on the Scenic City for other manufacturers to see.

"To have the only platinum LEED certified auto plant in the world in Chattanooga puts us in a different category than virtually any place in America," Former U.S. Representative Zach Wamp said.

VW's Chattanooga plant has since attracted 17 supplier companies to the area.

"Some of the other things that occurred, I suspect had a lot to do with Volkswagen kind of giving this community the good housekeeping seal of approval so to speak," Chattanooga Area Chamber Spokesperson J.Ed. Marston said.

Beyond jobs, just take a look at how the property has transformed from the old Volunteer Army Ammunitions plant. Several other businesses have moved in around the plant, and there are signs of more to come. It had so much traffic, it got its own exit off I-75 last year.     

"Driving from up north on 75 you just cut off and you're right there. Very great," driver Billie Crabtree said.

There's also the creation of the Enterprise South Nature Park in 2010. VW donated money to build biking and hiking trails.

"It's probably the best place in town to come and start mountain biking," bike camp instructor Eric Pullen of Cohutta Adventures in partnership with Suck Creek Cycle and Hamilton County Parks and Recreation, said.

This summer it's being put to use for a children's biking day camp for the first time.

"Nice trails and the bunkers are cool," participant Ian Campbell said.

Looking at the next five years, there's still 1,200 acres VW has to option to expand on.

"Since the day we got that first announcement, we have been positioning this community to win an expansion," Marston said.

The chamber says winning a VW expansion is not a done deal, but they're hopeful. They say disadvantages like tariff taxes on international import and exports are among several battles they face. They say that remaining land will be developed by a company, though, even if it's not Volkswagen.

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