categories that occur to many people, such as biotechnology or nanotechnology. The questioner noted that the polymer industry offers a “big opportunity for this technology to produce a broader array of parts and get into smaller scale manufacturing, rather than simply one-off projects. Mr. Griffith added that his company had “a great cooperative program at the University of Akron to advance our polymer products” that lowers cost and raises competitiveness.
Mr. Baeslack added that Ohio is “brilliant at materials, and there are a lot of applications in new tooling. Figuring out a faster, cheaper, more flexible tooling set opens up all kinds of new product development opportunities.”
Dr. Wessner posed two questions: (1) What could we do from the Federal or state levels to provide greater support for public-private partnerships, which are “the type of thing that our German colleagues excel at;” and (2) how significant is the 13.6 percent rate of unionization in Ohio, which only modestly exceeds the 11.6 percent national average for states? He added that Germany is “heavily unionized,” with union members on corporate boards, and yet it is successful at manufacturing and exporting.
Mr. Griffith, in response to the query about how Washington can help, praised the Partnership for Regional Innovation Services to Manufacturers (PRISM) initiative being developed by NorTech and MAGNET as an “interesting opportunity. “One-half of it helps educate people like me on how to work on partnerships,” he said. “The other half makes sure places like Akron and Case have robust R&D capabilities. Both have to happen; then you have to leave those of us at the state level to make it work.”
With regard to unions, Mr. Griffith said that the state’s legal infrastructure does reinforce unionization, as do the traditional mindsets. One challenge for Ohio is that the compensation paid by older unionized industries is in the range of $60,000 to $80,000 to workers who tend to have only high school training but who have acquired seniority in their jobs. These positions were now in decline “because in a competitive market there are people who will do the same job for lower cost. When people who want to invest in manufacturing see our environment, and compare it with South Carolina where wages are half as much and state laws are supportive of people working for a company vs. having a third party represent them, they choose to invest there. That is a fact of economic development in building new factories.”
Dr. Proenza asked about some confusion surrounding the manufacturing industry. “Many believe it is dying, but much of the data seems to show it is growing in value, but growing by productivity and automation.” Mr. Baeslack agreed with the second premise, adding that that “the biggest problem in manufacturing is misunderstanding its foundation. Each presidential election year we get calls from outside newspapers wanting to take pictures of boarded up steel mills. That’s not Ohio today. Ohio today is a remarkable productivity engine in manufacturing, and most of the job losses have come because of new technologies and new management.”