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Southern Sites Compete For Volkswagen Plant

Automotive analysts expect Volkswagen to consider two sites in Tennessee and one in northern Alabama for a possible new assembly plant.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Automotive analysts and experts expect Volkswagen to consider sites in Chattanooga, the Clarksville area and northern Alabama for a possible new U.S. assembly plant.
The three sites have been certified as automotive manufacturing megasites by the Tennessee Valley Authority's site-selection consulting firm, McCallum Sweeney of Greenville, S.C.
Commerce Park, northeast of Clarksville, Enterprise South, the site of the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant in Chattanooga, and the Limestone County Megasite, off Interstate 65 southeast of Athens, Ala., are all viable candidates for the plant, site selection experts say.
Local officials connected with all three sites refused to say whether they are in talks with Volkswagen and declined to talk about the properties in general, The Tennessean reported.
''When they take the lockdown approach in talking with you, you know something is going on,'' said Erich Merkle, an automotive manufacturing consultant with IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich. ''If they're not talking to the media, they're talking to Volkswagen.''
The German automaker announced last week it's looking at Alabama, Michigan or Tennessee as possible locations to build the plant and will make a decision this summer.
Tennessee and Alabama should be favored over Michigan to land the plant, analysts say, based on the auto industry's ongoing migration into the Sun Belt and concerns about labor's heavy influence in Michigan.
Tennessee is the home of Nissan Motor Co.'s North American headquarters near Nashville and has plants in Smyrna and Decherd. The state also has a General Motors Corp. assembly plant in Spring Hill.
Experts say Chattanooga may be the best of the three TVA sites for Volkswagen's needs in terms of infrastructure and highway and railway access.
Jim Frierson, director of the Advanced Transportation Technology Institute at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, said the city also has an ''environmental consciousness'' that would be attractive to Volkswagen.
''Volkswagen is coming out of Germany, which is the greenest of European Union countries,'' he said.
Chattanooga has transformed itself from having ''awful environmental conditions in the 1960s'' because of pollution from manufacturing plants to being one of the cleanest cities today, he said.
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