NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is headed for Germany on Monday to try to persuade auto parts suppliers to locate production facilities near a new Volkswagen plant being built in Chattanooga.
Bredesen, a Democrat, said he was leading the trade mission in hopes of attracting more automotive jobs within 100 miles of the plant.
"Volkswagen made it clear during our earlier discussions that they prefer to have suppliers located relatively proximate to them," the governor said in a phone interview late last week.
The plant in Chattanooga is projected to cost about $1 billion and employ more than 2,000. Bredesen said he sees little chance that the current economic downturn could affect VW's plans for the plant because the German automaker is making a very long-term investment.
"The first car won't roll off until 2010 or 2011, so I think the current stuff in the economy is not really affecting them," Bredesen said. "Volkswagen has a very strong balance sheet and they're not depending on a lot of leverage to build the plant."
The governor plans to visit Volkswagen AG headquarters in Wolfsburg and the German capital Berlin, where the delegation is scheduled to attend a reception hosted by Martin Winterkorn, VW's chief executive.
Bredesen then plans to return to Tennessee while the rest of the trade mission travels to Duesseldorf, Munich and Frankfurt to make presentations to suppliers for Europe's biggest car maker.
Bredesen said suppliers could bring thousands more jobs to Chattanooga and to surrounding rural areas that have had trouble attracting new jobs.
"There's another easy 5,000 to 6,000 jobs in those suppliers, and it could be more," Bredesen said.
Others on the trade mission include community and business leaders and state economic development officials.