Responding to an invitation offered by German officials in September, Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority executive assistant Stephanie Watkins traveled to Germany to meet with Volkswagen suppliers who are considering locating in Northwest Georgia.

The trip took place the last week of October.

“We had a good reception and made some very good contacts with the businesses,” Watkins said. “They were very respective of us and the information we had to offer. I was left with a very good feeling about the trip.”

Volkswagen plans to build a $1 billion automotive assembly plant in Chattanooga’s Enterprise South Industrial Park by 2011. Volkswagen is looking for supply industry locations, including possible ones in Walker and Catoosa counties. These businesses or industries would supply parts to the VW plant once it is in production. The suppliers could include both existing and new businesses.

Watkins traveled with a state delegation consisting of members from the state’s Department of Economic Development.

“The state had more specific information on Georgia incentives and highlighted our Northwest Georgia region,” Watkins said. “They spoke directly about things like job tax credits and workforce development.”

Watkins said her office, Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority, presented a look into the local advantages that are offered within the four counties the authority serves.

The authority serves Catoosa, Dade, Chattooga, and Walker counties. Its purpose is to help attract new business and industry to the counties.

“We offered information on some of our industrial park sites and supplied a glimpse of what we have available to a potential business looking to locate here,” Watkins said.

Watkins said the businesses represented at the meeting seemed to be impressed by the Northwest Georgia community.

“I think our prospects of them coming to Northwest Georgia are good,” Watkins said. “With our business-friendly environment, there is great opportunity in Georgia, especially with our location being so close and just across the border from Chattanooga.”

Asked about when Volkswagen might decide where they will locate supply industry, Watkins said, “In the talks I have participated in, I have heard some of the suppliers like the tier two or tier three suppliers will have to be in place before the main assembly plant can begin production because, depending on what they supply, they need to be up and ready so when the plant is complete it can get what it needs to be operational.”

Many such envoys as the delegation with which Watkins traveled are visiting the German automaker from across the Tennessee Valley.

“All of our communities that we serve — Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, and Walker and each of their cities — are working very hard to get prepared for the possibility of Volkswagen locating in our area,” Watkins said.

Cities like LaFayette are already working on tracts of land in their industrial parks in hopes of luring a Volkswagen supplier into their area.

“Obviously Northwest Georgia will benefit from these suppliers no matter where they eventually locate because our local economies will grow as a result of their presence in the area,” Watkins said.

Watkins said her office will take a second trip to Germany but details of the trip are currently limited as specifics are still being ironed out between the parties involved.