COLUMBUS, OHIO — Polymer company executives in Ohio hope that two industry groups will lead to more state funding and a boost to local research work.
"The new idea is we're going to unite so that we have a cohesive, total-encompassing organization," said Sharell Mikesell, executive director of the Ohio Polymer Strategy Council.
The other group, PolymerOhio Inc., is an official trade association with lobbying power, said Jim Colangelo, the group's executive director. Joe Bergen, president and chief executive officer of Middlefield, Ohio-based Sajar Plastics Inc., emphasized the need for two organizations to meet the state's needs.
"PolymerOhio will work right down in the direct supply chain within our factories and in our offices with what we're doing tomorrow, and the Strategy Council is working at a higher level to [encourage] funds for research and look farther out with how we might change the size and shape of our industry," said Bergen, who will serve with both PolymerOhio and the Strategy Council.
State officials and industry representatives heard about the groups April 3 at the Ohio Plastics Summit luncheon in Columbus.
Officials from the following companies and institutions will sit on the starting board of the Strategy Council: PolyOne Corp. in Cleveland; the University of Akron; Sajar Plastics; Ashland Chemical Co. in Dublin, Ohio; Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Akron; BF Goodrich of Charlotte, N.C., and Columbus-based Battelle Institute.
Tom Waltermire, chairman and CEO of PolyOne, said the industry's contribution to the state must be recognized.
"This industry has been here a while," he said. "But if we don't keep investing in it, it's going to get more and more mature, and we'll end up with another industry like the steel industry. And we can't allow that to happen in this state. When you have such a strong position worldwide, you ought to protect it and nurture it and build upon it, and that's what we want people to understand." Waltermire will serve as chairman of the Strategy Council.
According to data from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., Ohio employed 120,000 in plastics in 1999. The state ranks second in total plastics industry employment next to California. According to information distributed at the luncheon, the industry contributed more than $300 million in taxes, not including captive processors.
Executives say they've learned lessons from recent problems at the Edison Polymer Innovation Corp., a joint research consortium from which Ohio pulled funding last year. During the past few years, the state contributed about $1.3 million per year to EPIC.
"We felt that the activities EPIC was doing were more limited in scope than what we thought was needed to service the scope of the polymer industry," said Norm Chagnon, assistant deputy director of the technology division of the Ohio Department of Development. "We wanted to re-deploy dollars to other activities that would give us a broader scope."
So far, ODOD has given $350,000 to PolymerOhio Inc. for operating costs and to establish a Web presence. Another $300,000 was tagged for Ohio Polymer Enterprise Development Corp., a University of Akron initiative through which new, high technology concepts are commercialized.
"EPIC continues to exist as a legal entity," Chagnon said, emphasizing that EPIC is focusing on industry research and development. "That will really be up to them as to whether or not they will continue to operate as a non-profit after this year."
As far as more funding for PolymerOhio, Colangelo said the group will present its business plan to ODOD in the first part of May.
"We hope that the state will consider funding PolymerOhio going into the next biennial, which starts July 1," he said.
Chagnon said the state has not put financial resources into the Strategy Council to date.