MIL-OSI USA: Brown, Ohio Delegation Call on Administration to Fully Support Akron Regional Tech Hub

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US Senate News:

Source: United States Senator for Ohio Sherrod Brown

WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, as the application deadline for the next round of consideration for the Regional Tech Hub program closes, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called on the administration to support the Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub in Akron. Brown led U.S. Representatives Max Miller (R-OH-07), Emilia Sykes (D-OH-13), Shontel Brown (D-OH-11), Mike Carey (R-OH-15), Joyce Beatty (D-OH-03), and David Joyce (R-OH-14) in a letter to the Economic Development Administration supporting Akron’s application.

Akron is one of thirty-one hubs designated from a pool of nearly 500 applicants being considering for an implementation award, the final round of funding. Around 5-10 Hubs will be selected with awards of $20-70 million each to carry out their missions. In conjunction with the designation, Akron was also previously awarded a $400,000 strategy development grant for the consortium to aid local coordination and planning efforts. The investment will build on Akron’s historic leadership in the rubber industry and position the region to lead in developing and producing sustainable polymers – the next generation of rubber and plastics.

“Akron, famously known as the ‘Rubber Capital of the World,’ has been a leader in the polymer industry since the early 1900s. 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,” wrote the lawmakers. “The Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub proposal will advance Ohio’s manufacturing economy in ways that bolster existing investments and leverage ongoing collaborations for continued economic growth and success. There is no better place for this investment than northeast Ohio.”

The Department of Commerce Tech Hubs Program was created by Brown’s CHIPS Act to drive regional technology growth by strengthening a region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy critical technologies, and Brown urged the Commerce Department to choose a project located in Ohio. Brown has been a leader in bringing new manufacturing opportunities to Ohio and worked to pass into law the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 which boosted Intel’s $20 billion investment to build a semiconductor plant in New Albany and is expected to create 10,000 jobs. In August, Brown called on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to consider the value of locating Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs (Tech Hubs) in Ohio to continue the state’s leadership in manufacturing and innovation. 

For over a decade, Brown has long supported investments in polymer research at the University of Akron. In July, Brown fought to include an amendment in the National Defense Authorization that would designate rubber as a critical material – enabling the Defense Department to take steps to engage in research and development to increase the domestic supply of natural rubber. In 2022, Brown announced two separate National Science Foundation awards to the University of Akron on polymer research totaling almost $1 million.

Brown’s letter can be read here or below.

Dear Secretary Raimondo:

As the Economic Development Administration (EDA) moves forward in making its final selection for the Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs (“Tech Hubs”) to receive Phase II implementation funding, we write in strong support of the Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub application, led by the Greater Akron Chamber (GAC). We believe that funding support from the EDA will help enable the Greater Akron region to leverage its collective assets to ensure the area can realize its potential as a globally competitive leader in sustainable polymers.

Akron, famously known as the “Rubber Capital of the World,” has been a leader in the polymer industry since the early 1900s. 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. The Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub proposal, which is born from the Polymer Industry Cluster (PIC), also led by the GAC, aims to advance critical polymer and advanced material innovations in the sustainability, mobility, healthcare, and semiconductor industries. We understand that polymers touch every industrial sector, and we believe that this Tech Hub can help ensure that northeast Ohio is the global epicenter of innovation in future technologies.

As discussed in their application, the PIC is comprised of over 50 partners including 38 industry participants and three institutions of higher education. Leaders from the PIC have demonstrated to us their framework which maximizes the potential of Ohio’s polymer industry and positions it for long-term economic growth and success. In addition to seeking EDA funding, we understand that this work stands to benefit from state-level investments through avenues like the Ohio Innovation Hub program, which would complement projects in this Tech Hub proposal, as well as previous federal investments like America Makes and MAGNET which promote productive public-private partnerships to stimulate advanced manufacturing.

We have witnessed how Akron’s existing polymer manufacturing ecosystem provides a local pipeline from education and training to the workforce. Among the world-class institutions included in the PIC is the University of Akron (ranked #1 in polymers science and plastic engineering by global ranking side EduRank), Kent State University (designated as Carnegie R1 and specializes in liquid crystals), and Case Western University (also designated as Carnegie R1 and has a strong polymer program). We understand that PIC partners are also investing in industry-led workforce training programs in collaboration with universities and community colleges that are supported by grants from the Ohio Industry Sector Partnership Program. We further understand that local non-profits, like ConxusNEO, will help streamline pathways for talented individuals in the Tech Hub workforce in partnership with OhioMeansJobs. We also understand that applicants intend to coordinate with labor unions through the Tri-Country Regional Labor Council within the region to ensure the creation of good-quality jobs for workers from all educational levels and socioeconomic backgrounds.

For all these reasons, we believe that the Sustainable Polymers Tech Hub proposal will advance Ohio’s manufacturing economy in ways that bolster existing investments and leverage ongoing collaborations for continued economic growth and success. The application demonstrates the consortium’s key technological focus areas including Advanced Energy and Advanced Materials Science. We are also confident that the collective efforts of the consortium will advance equitable job and company growth in Greater Akron and position the region to be a globally competitive Tech Hub in Sustainable Polymers within ten years. We believe that this will improve Ohio’s ability to grow and retain existing companies, attract new business and investment, and solidify our state’s position as a global leader in polymers and advanced materials. We are convinced that there is no better place for this investment than northeast Ohio.

It is time to bury the term, “rust belt” and realize the full technological potential of the Midwest in the 21st century economy. We express our support for this effort and urge you to consider the value that investing in the development and manufacturing of advanced polymers in Akron, Ohio would bring to our nation’s supply chain, national security, and sustainability goals. If you have any questions regarding our support, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely, 

MIL OSI USA News