Impact of VW expansion stretches past Hamilton County - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Impact of VW expansion stretches past Hamilton County

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Surrounding counties to the North and South are all expecting to reap the benefits of the Chattanooga VW plant expansion. Economic leaders are already in talks with automotive suppliers to set up shop in East Tennessee and North Georgia.

"It's a regional project. It's locating in Hamilton County, but it impacts a much much larger area," says Gary Farlow, President and CEO of the Cleveland-Bradley County Chamber of Commerce.

Two thousand more jobs may be coming to the Volkswagen plant but parts suppliers will hire another estimated 3,600.

"Well, there's huge potential," says Farlow. "We feel pretty good about our potential to grab some of those suppliers."

He says he has been courting first and second tier Volkswagen suppliers to build in Bradley County.

"We've been seeing a fair amount of activity in the last few months, especially. We expect that to continue and hopefully we'll get our fair share."

Part of his confidence stems from the new 350 acre industrial site going in at Exit 20 off I-75.

"The pitch that we use is that we are very close to the Volkswagen plant. A lot of their, especially their first tier suppliers, Volkswagen wants them as close as possible. Some of them within 20 to 25 minutes. Well, coming off Exit 20 you're at the Volkswagen plant in less than 20 minutes," says Farlow.

"Roane County welcomes Volkswagen," says Wade Creswell, CEO of the Roane County Alliance.

Roane County is home to a 250,000 square foot Volkswagen distribution plant. It employs 40 people now but that could change.

"We're very hopeful that with the new announcement of the SUV being built in Chattanooga, that's going to cause expansion here," says Creswell.

The ripple effect of VW's growth does not just impact East Tennessee. The economic development coordinator in Walker county, Georgia tells Channel 3 within the last year, two auto suppliers opened, employing more than 100 people. A new production facility is also expected to open this Fall.

"Our communities are going to have to start getting ready for that growth and hopefully be ahead of it before it impacts them too much," says Farlow.

A study released last year from UT researchers found the Chattanooga VW plant far exceed its projected economic impact, pumping out $643 million in payroll each year. The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce says the new jobs will increase VW's annual payroll by more than $100 million.
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