AKRON—Paul Boulier, vice president of business attraction for Team NEO, is optimistic about the outlook of the polymer industry.
That's because, he said, there are positive global demand trends in the automotive, medical device, consumer products and electronics/electrical industries.
That's a good thing for Akron, as the city—and Northeast Ohio overall—is well positioned in the polymer industry, Boulier said.
There are a lot of companies in the region in the value-added space, helping to make plastics and other polymer products work better, he said, and the region has access to the shale gas and natural gas liquids that are the building blocks of plastics.
“We've got a very strong capability here,” Boulier said.
While some of the world's tire giants still have strongholds in what was once known as the “Rubber Capital of the World,” this reputation has largely become part of the past.
But Akron has built on that original area of expertise and retained strength in the polymer industry.
“Akron, while no longer the tire capital of the world, has been the global center of research for the industry for more than 100 years,” Surendra Chawla, senior director of external science and technology programs for Goodyear, said in an emailed statement.
“Goodyear and the University of Akron's polymer center are the cornerstones of this industry knowledge, which now includes R&D operations for multiple international firms.
“Goodyear both contributes to, and benefits from, this concentrated knowledge base,” Chawla said.
Earlier this year, Team NEO took a look at the polymer and chemical-related companies in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, concentrated in the parts of the states around the Utica Shale. As of early 2015, that three-state region boasted nearly 1,150 plastics manufacturers, close to 1,800 rubber makers and converters, about 6,370 chemical makers, and more than 8,000 plastic converters, according to information from Team NEO.
Those numbers include companies like Akron-based Goodyear, A. Schulman Inc. of Fairlawn, Ohio; PolyOne Corp. of Avon Lake, Ohio; and Omnova Solutions Inc. of Beachwood, Ohio.
The plastics industry is an area of focus for the organization in terms of international attraction, Boulier said. And for existing companies, Team NEO wants to attract more of their supply chains or customers to the region. Polymers are a potential area of growth for the region, he said, as rubber and plastic products tend to have both domestic and global demand.