By John Pierce

Recently I stopped by Enterprise South Nature Park, 2,800 acres of hiking and biking trails and picnic areas, next to the new Volkswagen plant that rolls out the hot-selling Passat. It is an easy find: just a couple of exits north of the big shopping mall in Chattanooga.

Nearly impossible to believe, this is the same site where my father spent most of his career as a pipefitter at what was officially the Volunteer Army Ammunitions Plant, but more commonly called the TNT plant. Large amounts of explosives were made — and stored — there during times of war.

Remarkably, the underground bunkers in which explosives were stored are the only remaining evidence. They are tucked away along the heavily wooded trails.

For safety and security reasons, I rarely visited the place where my dad worked. However, as an older teen, I made a few bucks backing nails out of boards from razed buildings, dating back to World War II, that were sold and removed for scrap lumber and other materials.

But there were also a couple of rare Saturdays when, in celebration of an achieved safety record (something worth celebrating for a place that makes explosives by the tons), employees and their families were invited to “Pride in Performance” Day.

My brothers and I especially enjoyed the free food that was provided throughout the day — along with games and other activities.

My brother Rob and I would enter the horseshoe-pitching contest — usually making it into the second round before being knocked out by a couple of really old men (probably 50 or so).

However, walking the wooded trails and then viewing the neatly designed VW plant recently made it difficult to believe that I was at the same place.

The VW plant that opened last year has been successful in every way: providing jobs and an economic boost to the area, producing 100,000 of Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” in nine months, and providing a model for ecologically-responsible manufacturing. The plant received the highest Edison Green Award this year for environmental and sustainability achievement.

This may sound like a company marketer or a chamber of commerce representative — and I am proud of the transformation that has occurred in Chattanooga in recent decades. But my primary observation from this stop along I-75 has broader application.

In all kinds of places and situations, it just might be possible to clean up one’s act while being both productive and responsible. Now that calls for pride in performance.



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