Knoxville, TN (SUBMITTED) – Tuesday’s announcement that Volkswagen Group of America will build its first United States assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN is welcome news to the Innovation Valley. The region, which includes the counties and communities in the Knoxville metropolitan area, is well positioned to support the VW facility and to support automotive parts manufactures.
“We’re thrilled with the news,” says Mike Edwards, president & CEO of the Knoxville Chamber. “Certainly, the folks in Chattanooga – including the City of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Chamber – deserve our thanks and congratulations. The Department of Economic and Community Development and the Tennessee Valley Authority also deserve a lot of credit for helping to recruit Volkswagen.”
In part, Edwards was enthusiastic about the announcement because of the economic promise it holds for Knoxville and the Innovation Valley.
“The Innovation Valley has the skilled workers and location that will welcome new employers and new jobs to the region – employers that will be supporting the $1 billion VW plant in Chattanooga,” Edwards continued. “Now we have to ensure that we have the land available for these new suppliers.”
Having business and industrial parks are important, and are necessary to have in place when a major announcement like the VW plant comes about. The industrial parks that the Development Corporation of Knox County manages will all be prime locations for these new auto parts manufacturers.
“An announcement like this is exactly why we have to constantly be looking to the future development of industrial property,” said Todd Napier, executive vice president of The Development Corporation. “Brookside Mills, Hardin Valley Business Park and the new park at Midway Road are all going to be key assets that will attract new jobs and new employers to this area.”
Innovation Valley Inc. is a regional partnership created to implement a new five-year economic development Blueprint for the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley. The Blueprint identifies 13 target sectors that are ripe for location and expansion in the region. One of those key business sectors is automotive suppliers.
“The Knoxville area has a history with automotive parts manufactures,” says Rhonda Rice, executive vice president of the Chamber. “Currently, several of the region’s largest manufacturers make auto parts, so the VW announcement should result in event more companies locating in the Innovation Valley and growth for the existing manufacturers. The region’s technology, workforce, and logistically assets make it a fantastic place for these major employers and distributors. In fact, we’ve had several parts manufacturers already looking at the region over the last several months. I’m sure they were anticipating this announcement from Volkswagen.”
Members of the Knoxville Chamber’s economic development staff and City of Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam were among a delegation of Innovation Valley partners that met with the Volkswagen Group of America representatives in May. The meeting was a way for the Knoxville representatives to show their support for the project and their willingness to work with VW part suppliers.
The Volkswagen Group of America plant is anticipated to be operational in 2011. That timeframe will allow the Knoxville Chamber and Innovation Valley partners to prepare industrial parks in the region and to recruit new businesses.
(Information submitted by the Knoxville Chamber.)