Ohio Congress members seek big bucks for Akron polymer hub

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With their eyes on a potential $20 million to $70 million prize, Northeast Ohio Congress members on Thursday urged the U.S. Commerce Department to direct big bucks to a Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub in Akron.

President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo last year designated Akron one of 31 “Regional Innovation and Technology Hubs” that are eligible for hefty federal grants funded from a $10 billion chunk of money from last year’s CHIPS and Science Act.

The Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub led by the Greater Akron Chamber will try to address the severe climate and environmental impacts resulting from the use of fossil fuel-derived polymers (rubbers and plastics) through accelerating U.S. sustainable polymer manufacturing and commercialization.

“Polymers have played an important role in American innovation ranging from the development of medical devices to our nation’s infrastructure; however, their production has resulted in challenges like greenhouse gas emissions and plastic pollution,” said a Commerce Department posting about the hub.

“This Tech Hub is seeking to leverage its regional assets – such as the largest concentration of plastics and rubber manufacturing plants, machines, and materials in North America – as well as regional partnerships in research and development and an inclusive regional workforce, to establish global leadership in sustainable plastic and rubber technology that has reduced emissions and is recyclable, biodegradable, and non-toxic,” it continued.

U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes, an Akron Democrat, sent a letter to Raimondo Thursday that said Greater Akron Chamber’s proposed hub would strengthen U.S. economic and national security through place-based investments in regions – such as Northeast Ohio – with the assets, resources, capacity, and potential to become a globally competitive Tech Hub.

“Polymers touch every industrial sector, and this Tech Hub can help ensure that northeast Ohio is the global epicenter of innovation in future technologies,” said her letter, which touted the pre-eminence of polymer science and liquid crystal development programs at local universities and the plan’s coordination with labor unions and local non-profits like ConxusNEO.

Sykes also signed onto a separate letter signed by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Cleveland, and U.S. Reps. Shontel Brown of Warrensville Heights and Joyce Beatty of Columbus, who are Democrats, as well as GOP U.S. Reps. Max Miller of Rocky River, Dave Joyce of South Russell and Mike Carey of Columbus.

“Akron, famously known as the ‘Rubber Capital of the World,’ has been a leader in the polymer industry since the early 1900s,” that letter said. “We strongly believe that the city’s history, paired with the state’s rich manufacturing history, makes northeast Ohio the obvious location to invest in a Tech Hub focused on polymers and advanced materials manufacturing and research & development.”

Five to 10 of the originally selected tech hubs will get awards of $20-70 million each to carry out their missions, said Sykes. When it won its initial tech hub designation, Akron was awarded a $400,000 strategy development grant.

When she announced the initial tech hub designations, Raimondo predicted the added investment will help each tech hub develop world class programs in their fields. Some of the other tech hubs focus on climate resilience, nuclear energy, ocean robotics, lithium

“America’s economic competitiveness depends on every region of our country, not just those who have historically been seen as technology leaders,” said National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard.

She said the new tech hubs are located in rural and urban areas, metro areas of all sizes and small towns. She said the program recognizes that “the best ideas for the future could come from a community anywhere around our country.

“The tech hubs program will lay the foundations for future centers of world class innovation in communities in every region,” Brainard continued.

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Eaton, Sabrina (2024, February 29) Ohio Congress members seek big bucks for Akron polymer hub. Retrieved from