While many Americans are struggling to make ends meet during the current financial crisis, the people of Chattanooga, Tennessee, have a brighter outlook thanks to the construction of a new Volkswagen plant that will help boost local employment. Production isn’t scheduled to start at the plant until 2011, but the $1 billion facility is already gearing up to receive its first visitors with a $250,000 temporary tourist center set to open by the middle of the year.

The tourist center will show-off the design of the new plant while it’s being constructed and will be replaced by a larger $40 million center when the plant becomes fully operational. Speaking with the Chattanooga Free Press, VW exec Frank Fischer said the visitor center is a good way to show what the company is doing to help preserve the environment while constructing the new plant, as well as keep local residents up-to-date with everything that is going on.

The plant will eventually build a new midsize sedan codenamed the ‘NMS’. However, the first batch of cars is expected to be manufactured in Germany later this year and imported to the U.S. by the end of next year.

VW recently released a teaser sketch of the upcoming NMS, which you can see in our previous story. The NMS will be slightly bigger than the Passat sedan, on which it’s based, but it will be positioned in terms of pricing with cheaper cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Further down the track, VW also plans to build a second, smaller sedan based on the Golf/Jetta platform.