AKRON, OHIO — A plastics market veteran is working with an investment firm and a research foundation to help commercialize polymer technology in the Buckeye State.
“We're going to select the investments that have the best possible chance to win,” Michael Rademacher said at an Aug. 20 event for potential investors in Akron. “And we'll put the right team in place to do some heavy lifting.”
Rademacher retired in 2012 from Avon Lake, Ohio-based PolyOne Corp., where he had run that firm's $1 billion resin distribution unit. He'd been with PolyOne since 2000 and had spent more than 30 years overall in the plastics and polymers field.
Now, Rademacher is a partner with Acquire Investments LLC, an Akron-based investment firm. Acquire is working with the University of Akron Research Foundation to create the Global Polymeric Materials Technology Commercialization Fund. The fund already has raised almost $11 million — including $5 million from a Chinese investor — and needs to raise a total of $20 million by the end of the year in order to apply for a program in which the state of Ohio would match half of that funding with its own investment.
In other words, that $20 million would immediately become $30 million.
“The state wants for-profit investors,” Acquire managing partners William Manby Jr. said at the event. “It wants jobs, companies and a tax base.”
Those matching funds — if approved — will come from Ohio Third Frontier, a state technology development program that's investing more than$2 billion in Ohio businesses. Northeast Ohio is fertile soil for polymer commercialization, Manby added, since 1,800 of the state's 2,400 polymer companies are based there. The region is home to top polymer science programs at the University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University, as well as medical polymer research efforts at University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic.
The challenge comes in finding a way to get promising new polymer technology into the markets it wants to serve. Entrepreneurs can spend 60-70 percent of their time trying to raise money, instead of spending that time operating their companies, Acquire managing partner Mark Krohn said at the event.
“How do we put these amazing things in similar pieces together?” he asked. “We can pair this polymer technology with capital that's ready, willing and able to be deployed immediately.”
The University of Akron Research Foundation brings plenty of commercializing experience to the Acquire effort. Since 2001, the foundation has spun out 54 companies, with almost half of those in the polymers field, president and CEO George Newkome said at the event. More than 30 of that total have then received follow-on funding of more than $550 million. Companies supported by the UARF also have created almost 500 jobs in Ohio.
Polymer spinoffs funded by the UARF include specialty resins and coatings producer Akron Polymer Systems, plastics-to-oil firm RES Polyflow and AxioMed Spine Corp., a maker of artificial spinal and lumbar discs. APS and RES Polyflow are based in Akron, while AxioMed is based in Cleveland.
Rademacher said that although he's a Wisconsin native who now lives in Atlanta, he spent most of his professional career in Ohio and still sees a lot of promise there.
“There have been too many companies that have left Ohio, and there's no reason for it,” he said. “I'm glad to be part of this effort.”