Paul Boulier has continued his long career in the plastics industry with Team NEO, a private-sector economic development hub for an 18-county region in Northeast Ohio, including the Cleveland and Akron areas.
Team NEO serves companies and site consultants as a single point of entry into the 18-county Cleveland region. The hub also works with counties and communities to attract new firms to Northeast Ohio. It's the Northeast Ohio regional partner of JobsOhio, a private nonprofit corporation that handles job creation and economic development.
Northeast Ohio long has been a hub of polymer activity and remains home to materials firms such as Avient Corp., Americhem Inc. and Geon Performance Solutions, as well as leading polymer science programs at the University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University. The tri-state region where Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia come together is home to more than 8,000 plastics processors, according to Team NEO research.
Boulier has more than 30 years of experience in plastics and chemicals, including a 17-year stint at materials firm Nova Chemicals. He joined Team NEO in 2016 and now serves as the hub's vice president of industry and innovation.
Additionally, Boulier operates his own consulting firm, Advantage Growth Solutions in Mentor, Ohio. He's also founder and CEO of Seauciel L.L.C., a startup focused on commercialization of recycling of comingled plastics waste using supercritical water. Seauciel is working with the University of Akron and Worcester Polytechnic Institute on that project.
Recently, Boulier checked in with Plastics News to share his thoughts on business conditions affecting plastics processors in the region.
Q: How has 2022 been for manufacturers so far? Are we seeing impacts from inflation and higher interest rates? Is the market seeing a lot of evidence of reshoring?
Boulier: We continue to see strong reshoring activity following COVID, as we did during COVID. Ohio ranks ninth in the country for 2021 in terms of reshoring numbers—38 companies with 7,800 jobs. We're No. 10 with respect to foreign direct Investment—17 companies with 9,200 jobs.
Northeast Ohio and Ohio's strengths in many of the industry sectors provide a strong value proposition for companies to reshore as well as foreign company investment here. For the first half of 2022, The Reshoring Initiative projects that this trend continues, and Ohio ranks very well.
Q: Does the labor market seem to be improving at all for manufacturers?
Boulier: The labor market still is very tight for all manufacturing sectors here in the region. Many different companies are leveraging the resources provided by Team NEO, JobsOhio, and our local economic development partners. We also are seeing strong interest in our Smart Manufacturing Cluster, as companies of all sizes look for ways to automate and improve efficiency and productivity.
Q: Will manufacturing stabilize in 2023? Other expectations?
Boulier: From all we hear, demand for most of our manufacturing companies remains solid, although with continued softness in automotive and transportation due primarily to the chip shortage. The labor shortage is key for them to grow their top line.