Naples, Fla. — U.S. tax reform will help the materials compounders invest in research and development and expansion and help customers add capacity, the leaders of three materials companies said at the Plastics News Executive Forum.
"The new tax bill allows us to repatriate money, and we're putting a lot of that into R&D," said Craig Nikrant, president of specialty engineered materials at PolyOne Corp. The company generates about 40 percent of its sales overseas, he said.
Nikrant, Techmer PM LLC President Ryan Howley, and Jean Sirois, global director of strategic planning and acquisitions/GM Canada at RTP Co., addressed a wide range of topics during a compounding panel discussion at the forum. Plastics News senior reporter Frank Esposito was the moderator.
For RTP, which gets most of its sales from the United States, the big angle is customers bringing work back to the United States, Sirois said.
Howley said his company also will benefit from the tax reform.
"From Techmer's standpoint, for us, the biggest impact will allow us to invest in capacity expansion and increased R&D," he said.
All three officials said their companies are investing in customer service and R&D. Sirois said RTP has 60 R&D engineers and continues to invest in people and equipment. PolyOne is "investing double-digit growth" in R&D, with 14 centers around the world. Techmer opened a design center in California.
All three panel members said key R&D areas include automotive lightweighting, carbon fiber technology, conductivity and shielding. Sirois sees a lot of innovation on materials for drug delivery, aerospace and self-driving cars, which he called "a computer on wheels, basically."
Nikrant, of PolyOne, said, "We're all experiencing some really good growth around the world. And especially as a global company, we're seeing things breaking loose in Europe."
The panelists agreed on how difficult it is to find skilled employees. RTP is based in Winona, Minn., so it has no problem keeping loyal employees who appreciate natural beauty and the outdoors, Sirois said. But finding engineers is more difficult, he added.
"Acquiring talent and keeping talent is a very hard challenge for all of us these days," said Nikrant. PolyOne heavily recruits at colleges for both sales and technology jobs. "Finding talent is a full-time job these days," he said.
Howley said Techmer spells out a career path for new hires.
"We've taken an approach to show people through training and certification how they can grow with Techmer," he said.
Lessons from compounding panel
- Both PolyOne Corp. and Techmer PM LLC said they will benefit from the new tax bill, and invest that money into research and development.
- All three panel members said key areas for research and development include automotive lightweighting, carbon fiber technology, conductivity and shielding.
- All of the panelists agreed on the difficulty of finding and keeping skilled workers. RTP keeps loyal employees with its scenic location in Winona, Minn., but said finding engineers is difficult. PolyOne recruits from colleges, and Techmer advocates for its employees to take part in professional development opportunities.