Sharell Mikesell estimates Ohio's universities and colleges have more than $100 million worth of assets in polymer research available.
The problem has been in getting those assets into the hands of Ohio's plastics industry players.
``How do we connect the research to the real manufacturers?'' he asked. ``I'd say we have 80 percent of the information [manufacturers] need, we just have to be able to help them access it.''
So the state of Ohio has created new programs specifically to address ways to help the plastics industry get that information - whether through a high-technology focus such as the Center for Multifunctional Polymer Nanomaterials and Devices at Ohio State University in Columbus, where Mikesell is business director, or through other focused approaches aimed at improving manufacturing capabilities and getting top executives information they need to decide whether to expand or locate in the region.
CMPND received a $22.5 million state grant for nanotechnology research in May and has agreed to invest another $78 million in research by 2009.
``We really do have the tools available, if we can just learn how to use them well,'' said Wayne Earley, executive director of PolymerOhio Inc. in a Sept. 28 interview at the American Composites Manufacturers Association's Composites 2005 show in Columbus.
The intent is not just to fund pure research, Mikesell said, but to focus on studies that help processors gain a competitive advantage. At the same time, the groups aim to open communication between manufacturers and colleges so processors can tell researchers what work will have the most benefit.
Plastics also are receiving extra attention from the newly created Ohio Business Development Coalition, a privatized economic development group for the state with an emphasis on efforts to convince business leaders to locate and expand in the state.
The coalition has named the plastics industry as one it particularly plans to nurture, and borrowed Procter & Gamble Inc. marketing executive Edward Burghard for three years to serve as executive director.
``The first step is to make sure Ohio stands for something that people understand,'' he said.