Polywood Inc. has depended on funding from New Jersey to develop technology to make plastic railroad ties and structural products from recycled plastic.
Now, statewide budget cuts threaten to eliminate the commission that provided Polywood's funding. Under Gov. James McGreevey, the $14 million budget for the state's Commission on Science and Technology will be eliminated June 30.
``They made it possible for us to ... analyze and develop a technology we might not have been able to develop on our own,'' President Jim Kerstein said in a March 4 telephone interview. ``We've more than doubled from the time we got funding. We created jobs in hourly wage and higher-technology-type positions.''
The 18-year-old commission works with universities and businesses to commercialize new ideas. Commission officials, business leaders and researchers hope they can make enough noise to save some of the funding.
``Cutting to zero is so Draconian,'' said Michael Breton, associate vice president of research at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J. ``Cutting to half, well, we'd survive.''
McGreevey's budget proposal eliminates more than 109 programs to save nearly $300 million. The state is facing a $5 billion deficit.
``The governor has made a commitment not to spend more than the state takes in,'' said Ellen Mellody, McGreevey's spokeswoman.
The decision won't affect Polywood directly, since it already has received the maximum amount of funding from CST. However, the decision would hit the institution that helped develop Polywood's technology: Rutgers University's Center for Advanced Materials Via Immiscible Polymer Processing (AMIPP).
``It will be devastating,'' said Tom Nosker, principal researcher with AMIPP. ``This decision will kill us. We've been just about as successful as a center can be.''
AMIPP is in its second year of a five-year grant worth $2.4 million. After that period, the group will be self-supporting.
``The state gave us $500,000 and we brought in $1.6 million in matching monies,'' Nosker said.
Rutger's Breton remains hopeful: ``I'm not convinced that the CST money will be totally cut in the end.'' The group saw its funding restored at the eleventh hour last year, after the governor had included it among his budget cuts.