WASHINGTON — What state is the biggest for the plastics industry? Depending on how you measure, it could be California, Texas or Indiana.
California has the most jobs because it's the most populous state; Texas has the highest-value shipments because of the huge resin manufacturing industry there; and Indiana's plastics industry accounts for a bigger chunk of that state's manufacturing sector than anywhere else in the country.
That's according to the new Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. Economic Report, which paints a picture of a plastics industry that has grown 35 percent in the United States since 1994.
SPI said the report will be helpful in proving the industry's importance to state government officials, whether the issue is environmental, work force or safety.
SPI President Donald Duncan said a good example is in Michigan, where SPI recently entered a formal arrangement to work more closely with the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"It was an eye-opener for them to see how large the plastics industry was in their state," Duncan said. "It gave us credibility."
Michigan ranked third in plastics industry employment in 1999, up 23 percent since 1994, and fifth in the value of shipments, up 34 percent since 1994.
Several states have shown strong growth in the percentage of their industrial base now concentrated in plastics, said Lori Anderson, director of economic and international affairs for Washington-based SPI.
Wisconsin went from eighth to fifth since 1994 in that ranking. Arkansas went from 12th to ninth and Pennsylvania went from 14th to 10th.
Among the 10 biggest states for plastics employment, Wisconsin had the fastest growth rate, 31 percent, while Texas added 29 percent more workers.
When measured by the value of shipments, Pennsylvania had the biggest increase among the top 10, growing 47 percent. California came in second at 39 percent.
The top states in terms of concentration of employment — plastics as a percentage of all manufacturing — are Indiana, Michigan, Rhode Island, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.
The report also provides figures on value added per worker in states.
Among processors, Virginia ranked highest, with each employee adding an average of $106,000 in value. Oregon ranked lowest, at $69,000.
Among mold makers, Connecticut employees were tops, at $196,000, while California ranked lowest, at $59,000. For resin makers, Texas added $424,000 of value per employee, the best, while Washington state was worst, at $127,000. Figures for equipment makers are not yet available, Anderson said.
SPI last updated the figures in 1997.
"One of the things we are excited about doing is sharing this information with people who can use it, whether we are trying to influence state legislators about the significance of the plastics industry in their state or trying to influence people on where industry activities would go," Duncan said.