The Area Development Frontline series offers insight into the innovative strategy being taken by businesses that are succeeding, intelligence on locations that are deploying winning policy to attract investment and talent, and reports on the industry trends that are affecting and shaping the global business climate now and into the future.
What was once described by Walter Cronkite as "the dirtiest city in America" has blossomed into a city where the local electric utility's headquarters is built atop a Superfund site, folks get around in rechargeable electric shuttle buses, and recycling trucks are wrapped in a kid-friendly décor - something that Chattanooga's Mayor Ron Littlefield explains as important because "they [children] are the most influential in getting their parents to recycle."
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, "going green" has resulted in green businesses locating and relocating their operations within the city and its surrounding Hamilton County. That's the case for Volkswagen of America, which recently cut the ribbon on a new manufacturing facility in Chattanooga that will employ some 2,000 people. The manufacturing plant itself will be an environmentally friendly, LEED-certified facility, and it will produce environmentally friendly vehicles to boot.
Sustainable Construction - and Products
Not far from Volkswagen, Alstom Power, a French-based manufacturer of equipment and technology for the global power industry, recently opened a new turbine plant built on the former site of Combustion Engineering - another power equipment manufacturer. The construction process itself was undertaken utilizing sustainable practices, including the use of 3,400 tons of recycled steel and concrete debris for road construction. Green features of the new facility include the use of skylights to maximize daylight in manufacturing shops and offices, waste heat recovery in the centralized HVAC system, insulated siding to improve building energy efficiency, and rain water capture for irrigation of the landscape.
More than half the site will be preserved as woodlands and landscaped green space. Conscious of the downtown location of its plant, Alstom planned the landscaping to be in harmony with the city of Chattanooga. The company also planned for siding on the Tennessee River to be used as an extension of Chattanooga's River Walk, a scenic recreational byway.
Like other businesses in the city and region, Alstom is striving for LEED certification: "At this stage, we have submitted the design documents to the Green Building Certification Institute. The review process will take months to be fully completed, and the final decision regarding the certification award is expected to be made in 2011 by the U.S. Green Building Council," says Aurélien Maurice, Alstom's Chattanooga project director. "With more than $300 million, this is the largest industrial investment in decades for Alstom."
For Alstom, this location stands in concert with local environmental initiatives: "Once known as a major manufacturing base for the nuclear industry, Chattanooga will soon be acknowledged as a key U.S. city contributing to the development of clean power in North America," adds Maurice. He also notes, "The city is well positioned to be a hub for the power generation industry, thanks to its central location, with excellent road, rail, and waterway connections."
Logistics infrastructure was also a driver behind the location decision of SIAG Aerisyn, a manufacturer of steel towers for wind-powered turbines. "Coupled with the availability of a skilled work force, training resources, supplier availability, and proximity to raw materials, the location is attractive from a logistics standpoint since it has access to three major interstates, along with extensive rail facilities," says Karsten Freytag, general manager of SIAG Aerisyn.
SIAG, Volkswagen, and Alstom share a common thread - the companies are manufacturing products for sustainability markets in a city where green practices are flourishing.