A county, university and plastics-related firms in northern California are collaborating to boost local industry.
Meantime, a federal grant is pending to upgrade the plastics and polymer science program at the California State University campus in Chico.
Butte County ``has a growing plastics industry in a very important location'' and an opportunity to benefit from the university's program, said Mike Donnelly, business development director for the county's Economic Development Corp. In October, EDC - the lead agency for attracting business - began knitting together a matrix of companies involved with aspects of polymer processing.
The recently formed Butte County Plastics Alliance has a roster of 15 firms in at least four molding and casting processes, tool and mold making, product design and development and analytical testing. The county, university and city of Chico are other alliance members.
EDC promotes the interaction between the university and plastics companies to draw prospects to the region.
``We are a small company with limited direct-marketing dollars, and by grouping ourselves with a network of other companies we have a much greater market reach,'' said Daren Otten, director of engineering and sales with multifaceted Development Technologies, an alliance member.
Within Butte County, the product development firm moved seven miles to Magalia from Paradise in late April.
By itself, CSU Chico's plastics program is on a roll under the direction of associate professor Joseph Greene. In January, the program relocated to 3,200 square feet in a campus laboratory from less-efficient space.
In March, the Labor Department's employment and training administration earmarked a congressionally mandated $497,050 grant for the plastics program under the Workforce Reinvestment Act.
``For $400,000, I hope to buy one all-electric, computer-controlled injection molder, one extruder, an extrusion blow molder, a compression molder, a thermoformer and a Brabender [measuring] mixer, plus some test equipment,'' Greene said. ``I'm waiting for the guidelines to be given to me to finalize the purchases.''
Other funds would help refurbish power resources for the lab.
The one-year grant funding cycle begins July 1.
The plastics program will jettison at least 10 machines. Current equipment includes three injection presses of 40-88 tons, extrusion lines with diameters of 1 and 11/2 inches for profile, sheet and blown film, two compression molding machines of 25-50 tons, two thermoforming machines, a filament winder, a rotational molding machine and a resin transfer machine.
Of 85 students enrolled in manufacturing technology programs, 40-50 are interested in the plastics track. Annually, about 10 graduates enter the plastics field.
The school offers short courses in plastics, computer-aided design and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing training for area businesses, and provides services in testing, rapid prototyping, CAD and tooling for small-part production, Greene said. The school also performs research and development.
The lab molds cups for Jatco Inc. of Union City, Calif., and tubes for Spectra-Physics Inc.'s laser business in Mountain View, Calif., and cooperates with Roplast Industries Inc. of Oroville, Calif., in testing films and evaluating materials for blown film extrusion applications.
Also, the lab assists the California Integrated Waste Management Board in plastics recycling technology and biodegradable plastics research.