published Friday, October 14th, 2011

VW spent $4.39 million on temporary pavilion for executives meeting in Chattanooga

Construction begins on a temporary building to house a worldwide conference of VW’s top leaders on the site of the company’s Chattanooga manufacturing plant at the Enterprise South industrial park in this file photo.
Construction begins on a temporary building to house a worldwide conference of VW’s top leaders on the site of the company’s Chattanooga manufacturing plant at the Enterprise South industrial park in this file photo.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Volkswagen spent more than $4.39 million on the temporary pavilion built for a meeting in Chattanooga for its top managers globally last month, city building permits show.

Local tourism experts said the event put on by the German automaker was one of the biggest international business meetings ever in the Scenic City.

“It was a large and high-profile meeting,” said Bob Doak, president of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, who didn’t have an economic impact estimate.

Although the event attracted VW’s top brass, officials stayed out of the limelight. There was no media fanfare such as when VW’s top officials marked the introduction of the Passat in Detroit in January or for the grand opening of its Chattanooga assembly plant in May.

The structure was put up next to the new factory for 250 top global managers and their spouses who met over two or three days. They lodged in local hotels and rented Chattanooga facilities when not at the plant, officials said.

After the group left, workers started to dismantle the pavilion, estimated at about 60,000 square feet. On Thursday, just the steel shell of the structure stood at the site.

The VW project was the most expensive building permit granted by the city in either August or September, and it was the second-highest of any permit granted this summer in Chattanooga, city reports show.

Mike Toth of Integrated Products, which helped put up the pavilion along with Florida-based Eventstar Structures, said he has never built a temporary structure such as the pavilion.

“Usually, when we build something like that, it stays up,” he said.

Toth said one of the reasons for the cost was because it was built to be temporary from the foundation up. He said, for example, the foundation was put down in a manner that a fork lift can easily pull it out and place it on a truck for disposal.

Also, a large turntable was installed inside the building to hold cars on display, Toth said.

The main structure was adjoined by traditional, large-sized tents. The facilities held a kitchen, toilets and a bar, according to plans.

The VW group flew into Chattanooga’s airport, parking nearly two dozen planes at Lovell Field.

Martin Winterkorn, VW’s chief executive and a participant at the meeting, said at the plant at its May grand opening that the automaker wanted to bring in the executives and show them what’s possible in America.

Frank Fischer, CEO of VW’s Chattanooga operations, said earlier that the group was in Chattanooga to discuss strategy, and they were to tour the new factory built to produce 150,000 vehicles a year.

VW officials declined to comment on the event, calling it an internal meeting.

Doak compared it to AT&T’s annual shareholders meeting in Chattanooga in 2010. The VW meeting adds credibility to the idea that Chattanooga can handle “world-class events,” he said.

Bill Mish, general manager of the DoubleTree Hotel downtown, said his facility was among a number of central city hotels which housed VW visitors and it was “a great chance to showcase the city.”

Mish said the hotel made some changes to accommodate the group, such as providing mini-bars in the rooms and stocking amenities including different types of coffees and chocolates.

He said the hotel provided added training for staff to fit the desires of the European traveler.

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about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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