An interest in building a stronger plastics cluster in southern Virginia has led to the formation of the Virginia Polymer Coalition.
“It's actually cooperation between three organizations. They wanted to bring economic development and manufacturing together,” said Chris Horne, communications director for the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, in a telephone interview.
The coalition plans to meet quarterly. The first networking meeting brought 38 people to the Danville, Va., institute. Another is planned for November. Horne said attendees already are discussing ways to help each other.
The group is a collaborative effort between the institute, the Southside Business Technology Center and Virginia Tech's Office of Economic Development.
A recent survey by the Southside tech center found that area polymer firms want a way to collaborate and control energy and material costs. Other shared concerns include finding a skilled workforce, better methods for product testing, materials analysis and waste recycling.
There are 33 plastic-related firms within the six local counties, and 149 within a 120-mile range.
The institute's goal is to aid economic and community transformation, by fostering a growth of ideas and sharing information about services offered, such as a new analytical chemist at the institute, Horne said.
He said Virginia Tech and some of the nearby companies also are exploring the development of non-oil-based materials that can be used in polymers.