published Friday, January 10th, 2014

Volkswagen film helps put Chattanooga 'on the map,' officials say

  • photo
    A Volkswagen logo on the Village VW dealership is reflected in the hood of the first Chattanooga-made Passat sold in Chattanooga.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

Chattanooga's economic developers plan put an award-winning film about Volkswagen's auto plant here in its business recruitment tool box, officials said Thursday at the documentary's premiere in the city.

"We're on the map," said Ron Harr, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, adding the film shows that "the word Chattanooga means something around the world."

"The Chattanooga Story: A German Carmaker Goes to Tennessee" recently won a key award at a film festival in Cannes, France. About 350 people on an invitation-only basis viewed the 100-minute documentary, which was filmed over four years starting shortly after the city won the plant in 2008, at the city's IMAX Theater.

Frank Fischer, the plant's chief executive, said the entire factory's 2,700-person workforce will receive a DVD of the film. He said an earlier viewing of the piece by about 150 people, many of whom had come from overseas to work at the plant, drew a lot of excitement -- an some tears.

For him, he said, the film helped him recall more deeply the journey of how the $1 billion plant was constructed and the launch of the all-new Passat midsize sedan.

Charles Wood, the Chamber's vice president of economic development, said the film "makes some big waves."

"It's a great story. We knew that," he said. Wood said he foresees using clips of the film, and he thinks it may be especially helpful in recruiting more international companies to the city.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said, too, that the documentary offers opportunities as VW considers expansion of the plant to produce a new sport utility vehicle. He mentioned efforts by the county to attract more automotive suppliers to the area.

Former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, who helped recruit VW to the city, said the film-makers were careful to document the activities relating to the plant.

"It proves and shows how a company and a community can work together" to make something big happen. "It's a rare occurrence."

Paul Mallchok, who manages Eastgate Town Center, said VW's impact reaches beyond just Enterprise South industrial park, which holds the massive plant.

He said the actory is "positively impacting" all of the city.

John Lionel Bandmann, president and editor in chief of film-maker United Visions Moving Media, said he'd like to continue to document the plant in the future.

"In my opinion, the story is not told yet," he said. "It's not finished."

The head of the German company said the film, which was financed by VW, cost a "six-digit figure" to make.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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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