Volkswagen Chooses Tennessee; Alabama Comes In Second

Montgomery County Commission Chairman Todd Strange
Montgomery County Commission Chairman Todd Strange

Montgomery, Al. (WSFA) -- Montgomery County Commission Chairman Todd Strange was not part of the negotiating team with Volkswagen but knows all too well what went on behind the scenes. Strange served as the Director of the Alabama Development Office under Governor Don Siegelman and helped bring Hyundai to Montgomery.

Chairman Strange also played a huge role in the expansions of Honda and Mercedes. He also knows just what the current administration felt when Volkswagen picked Chattanooga over Limestone County, Alabama.

"I'm sure there was a blow to the stomach," said Strange.

But Strange is refusing to say Alabama 'lost.'

"You've got to be in a 50 mile radius to get the tier ones and tier twos. That's going to be a boon opportunity in north Alabama. Not just Limestone County but Madison County as well," said Strange.

The current head of the development office feels the same way, even though Alabama officials offered more than $300 million in incentives. So what was the difference? Why Tennessee instead of north Alabama? Neal Wade has an idea.

"We knew going in this was an uphill battle. Tennessee already owned the land and had already done the environmental work at their site. We had a site but we didn't own it. It was picked out by the company's consultants," said Wade Director of the Alabama Development Office.

In the end officials agree it was Tennessee's day and it all goes back to one of the fundamentals of recruiting.

"Winning and losing is part of the economic game," said Strange.

North Alabama Reacts

While the loss hurts Alabama, north alabama could still benefit from VW suppliers. The cities of Athens and Huntsville put hours of work into the project and admit the loss hurts.

"I feel his [Governor Riley's] disapointment and I mine too," said Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer. "I know we've worked real hard on lots of hours and months now. It was a great opporuntinity for this area with the trained work force. We had the perfect site and everyone had worked so good together."

Spencer says they have a good incentive package, and they'll now move on to other companies to try to lure them to Alabama.

North Alabama could get 1,500 spin-off jobs from VW's mother plant.

Volkswagen plans to have the $1 billion dollar plant up and running by 2011 and plans on hiring around 2,000 people.