The polymer industry is Ohio’s largest industry cluster with more than 140,000 employees in more than 2800 companies. Recent statistics indicate that the US polymer industry has returned to its historic growth rate of about 1% higher than the average for all manufacturing.

Ohio’s polymer industry is broad and deep; it requires a resource that has an in-depth understanding of the industry and its technology, products, business processes and manufacturing processes to facilitate growth. PolymerOhio is an industry specific resource that is uniquely capable of providing the needed services.

In total, Ohio’s polymer industry has annual shipments of approximately $49B and affects approximately 140,000 Ohio employees (source: NEO Polymer Strategic Opportunity Roadmap (PSOR) and an unpublished McKinsey study). Employment includes “embedded employees” and related university research employees. The PSOR estimates that the polymer industry in Northeast Ohio alone can create and/or retain 8,000 to 13,000 jobs and affect 17,000 to 40,000 jobs through the year 2012. Statewide, the opportunity is more significant. With over 140,000 jobs statewide, even a 1% annual industry growth yields 800 new jobs in Ohio after allowing for productivity improvement. The PSOR reported that for Northeast Ohio wages for polymer employees exceeded that for all employees ($39,742 vs. $33,659).

PolymerOhio’s mission is to increase the growth and competitiveness of Ohio’s companies whose businesses are based on polymer technology. Over the past 18 months, PolymerOhio’s activities have assisted companies in increasing sales, reducing costs, and increasing investments for growth to achieve a return of $30 for every $1 invested by ODOD in PolymerOhio’s activities. We are currently working with six companies who wish to move to Ohio or expand in Ohio.

PolymerOhio’s program includes activities to provide polymer-industry-specific services to help companies achieve increased sales, reduced costs and new investments. PolymerOhio’s business model is designed to efficiently use a wide range of assets to help companies to grow and become more competitive.

The organization’s business model is designed to serve the full polymer community statewide including companies, colleges, and universities as well as public and private research laboratories.

Diagram 1 shows an array of barriers to economic growth. PolymerOhio can best be described as an organization that is a connector and networker.. By connecting and networking companies, individuals, and groups across Ohio’s polymer industry and across geographic regions, etc., PolymerOhio increases the rate at with which the industry grows and at which it adopts new technology to create products, services and competitive advantage. A key aspect of PolymerOhio’s efforts is to know the polymer research and researchers at the universities and industrial labs and to connect companies to these capabilities when appropriate.

It is imperative that support for PolymerOhio’s polymer specific program is increased to assure that Ohio achieves the excellent growth potential of its polymer industry.

PolymerOhio works closely with the Ohio Polymer Strategy Council, The Wright Centers: CMPND (Center for Multifunctional Polymer Nanomaterials and Devices) and OBIC (Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center). CMPND has as its goal to commercialize nano-enhanced materials. This is happening today, as companies such as PolyOne, Ashland, Nanofilms, Nanosperse, and many others have commercial products available. An alliance of Ohio’s Polymer and Agriculture Industries The Ohio BioProducts Innovation Wright Center has as its goal to commercialize polymers and polymer additives derived from corn, soy beans and other agricultural materials.

Commercialization of bio-based products is already emerging in Ohio. Among the important industrial players are DuPont, ADM-Metabolix, Cargill-NatureWorks, Plastic Suppliers, Scotts, P & G, PolyOne, Ferro, Sherwin Williams, PPG, Peter Cremer, Cognis, Cleveland Clinic, Dow Chemical, Honda of America, and others. Products derived from soybeans and corn are now clearly showing they can offer many performance advantages plus better economics over conventional fossil based chemical and polymer products.

For Ohio to benefit from these technological advancements and to create the foundation for new job growth along the entire supply chain, will require a new alliance approach to accelerating research, development and product commercialization.

  • Attract a major agri-processing company to invest in an integrated bio-refinery as the missing piece in Ohio’s agriculture-biochemical/polymer/materials feedstock supply-chain by providing commercial tax-abatements and providing alignment with Third Frontier funded research and innovation initiatives throughout Ohio.
  • Integrate and leverage the ‘world-class’ renewable products research within the two major Wright Centers in bio-products (OBIC) and polymers and nanotechnology (CMPND) and their industry connections for applications development, prototype scale-up demonstrations and commercialization in support of world-scale biorefineries to be built in Ohio.
  • Leverage the university networks within OBIC and CMPND, which include University of Akron, University of Dayton, University of Toledo, Kent State, Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati to create the networked talent pool and to attract eminent scholars to perform biobased product research in support of the Ohio biorefinery building blocks and technology platforms.
  • Capitalize on the leading and global stature of Battelle and the associated National Laboratory network in bioproducts and bioprocessing research.

In Summary

Ohio has a large and unique opportunity. Its polymer industry has huge potential and in combination with the Ohio agricultural industry can place Ohio in a world leading position with a large increase in jobs and a significant impact of the supply of bio based fuels and polymer materials.

  • Sources of pride- A strong candidate needs to help voters see reasons to be proud of Ohio. We have many historical events that we can draw from to tell a story. As Jack Fisher said, we should pull together the bullet points and the reasons why Ohio is like no other State in the Union when it comes to the overlapping interests of agriculture and the polymer industry.
  • Overcoming very real threats to Ohio’s economy- lower cost regions of the world. This is especially true of chemical industries. According to David Jones at Ashland, there are 50 $1 billion chemical facilities being built in the world and only 1 of them is being built in the U.S.
  • Why Ohio? Water, soils, logistics, industry leaders, etc.
  • Compelling vision- Ohio has the opportunity to once again be the leader of a major transformation occurring in the world. It will not be easy. It will require dedicated support across a large network of collaborators. (In a political speech, I would not include this language, but it appears to be the incredible opportunity- The hybridization of biobased materials with nanostructured enhancements centered on an integrated bio-refinery is both new to the world thinking and very feasible.
  • Early adopters win- In the race to adopt new technology, it is the early adopters that tend to gain the most economic reward. We need a strong network (like Polymer Ohio and OSU Extension) that quickly connects proven technology to those who can use it profitably.

Early adopters win. Ohio’s polymer and agriculture industries are assisting companies to become early adopters.

Some examples:

Applied Sciences of Cedarville, Ohio is a leader in the production of multi-wall nanofibers

Plastic Sppliers of Columbus, Ohio is a leader in the use of biobased materials in films.

Flat Panel Displays in Ohio: The liquid crystal display, LCD, industry can trace its roots back to Kent, Ohio. Indeed the twisted nematic display, which established the LCD industry was invented by a senior research fellow at the Liquid Cyrstal Institute over thirty years ago. One of the first companies to produce this display was located in Kent. This year this industry will top $60 billion in world-wide sales. Unfortunately, Ohio lost its early lead and the bulk of the industry is now located in the Pacific Rim.
Changes in the industry are placing Ohio in the lead again and well positioned to capitalize on the emerging flexible display industry. Our complementary polymer and printing industries make Ohio the logical place for this new technology to locate. It is critical to the states future that this time we not only lead the way, but capitalize on this lead to return the substantial economic rewards to the state.

Most recently the LCI has led a consortium of Ohio companies that are developing the materials and processes required to fabricate liquid crystal displays and related electronic devices using roll-to-roll fabrication techniques on flexible plastic substrates.

Our research strengths in liquid crystals and polymers support a number of local companies that are exploiting our resources and expertise to develop and market a host of electronic devices fabricated on flexible plastic substrates. This concentration of expertise places Northeast Ohio in a unique position to capitalize on the emerging market for flexible displays

AlphaMicron, Inc. has developed unique expertise to produce switchable eyewear.
Hana Microdisplay Technologies specializes in producing liquid crystal on silicon devices (LCOS).
Kent Displays is developing bistable cholesteric devices that are ideally suited for electronic books and newspapers.
LXD Corporation’s roots go back to the International Liquid Crystal Company in 1971. The company designs, prototypes and manufactures custom displays up to 14″ x 16″. LXD specializes in extremely long life, high reliability displays..
PolyDisplay, the most recent LCD company to establish in the region, is focused on the production of flexible plastic LCDs ideal for displays on glass or flexible displays. Transmission is only limited by the optical properties of the glass or plastic substrate.

Ohio is a perfect location for polymer compounders.

Compounders play an important role in the Polymer Business. While there have not been a large number of new polymers invented since about 1970, compounders have created many important new materials by combining two or more polymers, rubbers, and other materials. Ohio is not normally considered a location where polymers are manufactured. If fact, because of our broad base of compounders, Ohio is an important location where polymer compounded polymers are developed and produced. Compounding and Blending are very important to nano enhanced materials. So the new Wright Center of Innovation CMPND is a key capability for commercializing new technology.