The economic ripple effect of shale drilling has been particularly strong on the plastics industry. As ideastream’s Brian Bull reports, a plastics and chemical manufacturer expects long-term growth as development continues in parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania:
OMNOVA Solutions is based in the small Summit County city of Fairlawn. It makes a number of products that are actually made from a natural gas byproduct, ethylene. CEO Kevin McMullen explains:
“Ethylene is turned into polyethylene, which is used to make a number of products in plastics: films, paints, coatings, and many, many, other materials," says McMullen. "So, it is very fundamental to much our economy.”
McMullen says ongoing production in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays may transform the North American chemical and plastics industry significantly. He says chemical companies in the U.S. and elsewhere are revisiting their investment plans in American manufacturing.
“This has the catalyst to be something that really takes the industry to the next level. And I think that will continue," says McMullen. "I think what you’re now starting to see happening is people -- who process the natural gas to form ethylene and polyethylene -- are now starting to make investments in North America in a more significant way than they had maybe 6 or 8 or 10 years ago.”
Plastics comprise the nation’s third largest manufacturing industry. The Society of Plastics Industry trade group says it accounted for nearly $42 billion in payroll in 2012, and employs nearly 1.5 million including suppliers.
And Ohio is among the top makers of plastics and rubber in the upper Midwest.