The University of Akron, Case Western Reserve and Kent State universities and the Northeast Ohio region's entire polymer industry will get a new research and development center — if backers win $17 million in federal funding.
"This investment stands to be a game-changer for Akron and Northeast Ohio," said Chris Helsel, senior vice president of global operations and chief technical officer at Akron-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., via email. "There's no question that this initiative will attract top talent and high-growth businesses to the area and drive other powerful economic outcomes for the community and companies of all sizes."
Proponents expect to know in September if the project will become a reality, as that's when they'll learn whether the region's application for $75 million in Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant funding succeeds. The polymer cluster initiative is the biggest single component of that request.
Those who worked on the application say they're optimistic because the regional proposal is one of only 60 national finalists, selected from 529 applications in March. Federal officials have said they plan to select between 20 and 30 of the remaining proposals for funding.
"We made the toughest cut. We believe we have a really stellar application," said Ethan Karp, CEO of the manufacturing support organization MAGNET, the official applicant for the federal funding.
Plus, proponents contend, support for the polymer cluster dovetails perfectly with a current national drive to bolster domestic manufacturing, after seeing international supply chains fail in recent years. That's a priority for the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which will decide who gets Build Back Better grant funding, said Steve Millard, head of the Greater Akron Chamber.
"We believe that a strong polymer supply chain in Northeast Ohio advances many of the things the EDA cares about with regards to the national supply chain," Millard said.