I was a little surprised a few weeks ago when I saw a video touting Ohio as the No. 1 plastics producing state.
The video is really slick, and features a lot of executives, researchers and educators who Plastics News readers know well. It's a nice bit of promotion, and very specific to plastics. The goal is to tout the state's plastics expertise and resources, to encourage additional investment in the sector.
But wait a minute, I thought. Ohio used to be No. 1. But the latest statistics — at least the ones most frequently quoted — show that Texas is the top state in plastics employment. In fact, Texas passed California last year, according to the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., thanks to the growing shale gas-fueled investments on the state's Gulf Coast.
But that's not fair, you say? Because Texas and California are among the most populous states? Well, SPI's statistics also break down plastics employment as a percentage of each state's total nonfarm employment. That figure gives a good estimate on how important the plastics industry is to each state's economy.
Measured that way, Indiana is No. 1 at 16.4 percent, and Michigan is a close No. 2 at 15.9 percent.
Ohio? In professional basketball, yes, Ohio is No. 1 (go Cavs!). In plastics? Well, it's actually No. 3 on both lists, with 73,700 plastics industry jobs, and 13.8 percent of nonfarm jobs attributed to plastics.
Ohio isn't far behind the leaders. In total jobs, Texas has 77,000 in plastics, and California has 73,800, according to the SPI data.
So I'm going to cut Ohio some slack on its No. 1 in plastics claim. And, for the record, the people who produced the video say Ohio is No. 1 in terms of plastics product manufacturing, not counting resin production. Looking at the big picture, it's good news that state officials know, and care about, the size and importance of the plastics industry in the Buckeye State.
Other states should follow their lead.
I remember back when George Voinovich was governor of Ohio, there was a brief period where state plastics executives didn't think that state officials were aware enough of the local polymer industry. So they put together a plastics summit in Columbus, Ohio, and brought in local and national leaders to educate everyone.
In 1996, shortly after one of the Ohio Plastics Summits, we wrote: “There are few political figures at the level of Voinovich who so enthusiastically support the plastics industry. That is one of the reasons it does so well in Ohio.”
The new video is evidence that Ohio hasn't forgotten about plastics. The project, which was created by the non-profit state-affiliated agency JobsOhio, points out that one reason Ohio has such high rankings in plastics is because of the state's strong plastics cluster — its geographic concentration of companies, researchers and educational institutions focused on polymers.
JobsOhio officials believe plastics still have a lot of room for growth, especially in areas like lightweight composites and 3-D printing.
So they created the video and now they're pushing it out to educate people on the importance of Ohio's plastics industry. The JobsOhio folks are taking the message globally, with trips to Chinaplas and K, the Hannover Messe and NPE.
Ohio isn't alone in touting the size and importance of its plastics industry. But it's setting a good example that others could follow. Texas, California, Indiana, Michigan … chances are pretty good that if you're reading Plastics News, your state could be on this list. How well do your local officials understand plastics?
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.” Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.