The American auto industry turned its attention to Chattanooga Thursday.
Four Hundred people arrived for the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association Conference at the Convention Center.
It's a recognition of the two-year-old and highly successful Volkswagen plant at Enterprise South.
Thirty years ago no one would have guessed that Tennessee would rank 8th nationally in terms of auto production.
And 5 years ago, it was hard to imagine Chattanooga/Hamilton county as the home of the successful Volkswagen Passat.
Automotive suppliers crowded the Convention center to show the best and latest to those who make the decisions.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam was one of the first to welcome them.
He says 25% of the state's economy is now tied to auto production.
GOV. BILL HASLAM, (R) TENNESSEE "In Tennessee, we welcome your continued partnership. We want your feedback. What we want to hear from you is, what can we do to help you have the workforce you need so that you can compete globally."
Despite the fact that the auto industry pays 6-billion dollars to Tennessee workers every year, the Cato Institute has recently criticized Haslam's Tennessee budget as one of the worst in the country.
GOV. BILL HASLAM "Tennessee has one of the three lowest tax burden's per capita of any state. We have one of the two lowest debts per capita, we have cut taxes ad budgets that are smaller than when we came." "I think the proof is in the numbers."
Chattanoogan Joe Connor was a main organizer and sponsor the conference.
JOE CONNOR, ATTORNEY, BAKER DONELSON "Just the proximity to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi..makes this whole region really a hotbed for a supplier's network."
In addition to the new Volkswagen plant, Tennessee can boast of Nissan and G-M plants, and suppliers other southern manufacturers like Mercedes, Toyota, Hyundai and Honda.
That conference continues Friday with a keynote speech from Jay Williams of the U.S. Department of Labor.