California has its Silicon Valley and North Carolina its pharmaceutical triangle. So where is the hub of the plastics industry? Longing to claim that distinction is West Virginia. With the help of plastics giants in the area such as DuPont Co. and GE Plastics, the state government is identifying prospective companies to encourage moving to its ``polymer alliance zone.'' The zone consists of three counties bordering the Ohio River - Jackson, Mason and Wood.
``The idea of clustering common industries exists in high-tech sectors; why not the materials-oriented sector of the business world?'' asked Skip Lineberg, accounts manager for the West Virginia Development Office.
But why West Virginia? With the interstate highways, railway system and the Ohio River nearby, the locale could serve the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and South-east. The area boasts a large concentration of high-value polymer producers, including resin suppliers.
In addition, West Virginia needs jobs. The state's unemployment rate is 2-4 percent higher than the national average, according to Lineberg.
The state government, the industries and the education system will work together to develop specific training. The plastic and resin companies would identify the skills they look for in employees.
In conjunction with the ``polymer alliance zone,'' West Virginia University's Parkersburg campus is developing a curriculum to create polymer-related majors. With these courses in place, partnerships with companies would follow and students could get hands on experience with co-ops and research and development.
The state's investment goal during the next 10 years is to add 2,500 jobs through expansions and new firms. It also plans to increase product worth $380 million above baseline production to $2.44 billion.
In its bid to become the world center of plastics, the government is targeting such industries as coaters and molders of miscellaneous plastic parts, auto parts, appliances and telecommunications and office equipment to recruit.
It also is working with DuPont, GE Plastics and Shell Chemical Co. to attract their suppliers of services and materials.
``It's an all-out recruitment effort by the state,'' Lineberg said. ``We want to be a strong force at industry trade shows and in industrywide publications.''