Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's economic stimulus package includes $50 million to encourage the development of bioproducts, such as plastic resins from corn - in a bid to link two of Ohio's most important industries.
Ohio is at a crossroads when it comes to future plant-based materials and energy sources, Strickland said in a speech at the Ohio Polymer Summit, held June 3 in Columbus.
``This is truly a transformative time in Ohio's economic history. Two of our great industries, agriculture and polymers, have proven themselves in Ohio in the past, using separate tracks,'' Strickland said. ``But these sectors are now, thankfully, coming together.'' The need is more urgent because of high energy costs and concerns about climate change, he said.
Agriculture and food products make up Ohio's largest industrial sector - a $93 billion annual business. Polymers generate $49 billion in annual sales.
Wayne Earley, president of PolymerOhio Inc., said Ohio is a national leader for plastic materials makers, compounders and leading-edge research universities. ``We can commercialize those biomaterials faster than anybody else,'' he said.
According to Westerville, Ohio-based PolymerOhio, 140,000 Ohioans are employed at the state's 2,800 polymer-related facilities.
PolymerOhio organized the Ohio Polymer Summit, which drew 220 people. The governor's address came at a lunch attended by polymer activists and also people who attended the annual meeting of a group called the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council.
Strickland acknowledged that $50 million for bioproducts is only a small fraction of his $1.57 billion plan to help Ohio's struggling economy. But he called it a ``major step forward'' in recognizing the importance of that emerging industry.
In his speech, Strickland also outlined several recommendations of the Ohio Agriculture to Chemicals, Polymers and Advanced Materials Task Force. The full report will be released in mid-June.
One of the proposals is to set up an Agbioproducts Technology Center to link efforts of the Ohio Department of Development and Ohio Department of Agriculture. A likely home would be at the Ohio Bioproducts Innovation Center, based at Ohio State University.
Another recommendation is to set up a refinery so companies could produce large samples of new materials for pilot and pre-production runs of new biomaterials.
``We believe Ohio leads the nation, and perhaps the world, in terms of the research and development, expertise and creativity that exists in the polymer industry,'' Strickland said.