Agriculture and polymers are two of Ohio's strongest sectors, and officials from government, industry and academia say bringing them together could make the Buckeye State into a powerhouse for the future world of plant-based polymers, specialty chemicals, lubricants and adhesives.
``Industries need to cooperate,'' said John Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, interviewed at the Ohio Polymer Summit. ``This is a great opportunity for us to be part of this global market, where we find new feedstocks coming from a renewable resource.''
Ohio farmers are looking for new uses for their crops, mainly corn and soybeans, Fisher said.
The Ohio Polymer Summit brought about 200 plastics industry leaders to Columbus on May 23, for sessions about innovation and speeches from Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson.
In 2005, Taft's Third Frontier Project kicked in $11.5 million to launch the Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center, based at Ohio State University.
According to the center, the Department of Energy predicts that, by 2050, renewable feedstocks will supply up to 50 percent of the chemical and materials demand. The issue is getting more attention now that gas prices are hovering near $3 a gallon, but solving the problem will take a long-term commitment, said Stephen Myers, OBIC director.
Myers is also assistant director of OSU's Agricultural Research and Development Center.
State leaders have identified Ohio's strongest industries as polymers, agriculture, medical, automotive and energy, Myers said.
Ohio has a good blending of farming and industry - and major polymer companies combined with leading university polymer research programs, officials said.
Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. in Marysville, Ohio, is active in the Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center. Mustapha Abbaoui, Scotts' project manager of research and development, said Scotts is looking at plant-based polymers to make biodegradable packaging and for ingredients in its plant-care products. He is a plastics engineer.
Taft called the polymer business ``a core strength of Ohio's knowledge-based economy.''
Taft said 130,000 Ohioans are employed at 2,800 polymer-related companies that generate more than $40 billion in annual sales.
``It's very exciting you're coming together to consolidate your strengths and to make sure that all decision-makers in Ohio are aware of the prominence and importance of the polymer industry to the state,'' Taft said.