Ohio Companies Making a Material Difference in Advanced Energy
In recent years, Ohio has made significant commitments to the support of advanced and alternative energy solutions, including the adoption of renewable portfolio standards and a State Job Stimulus program in advanced energy. Ohio Third Frontier also has made major investments, accelerating the success of advanced energy projects and industries in Ohio. Underlying many of the successes in advanced energy is Ohio’s breadth and depth of world-class competencies in the area of advanced materials, which has also been a major focus for investment by Ohio Third Frontier. Whether improving on more mature energy technologies such as wind turbines or leading the development of next generation solar, research and commercialization of advanced materials is making Ohio a recognized source for alternative and renewable energy solutions.
Located in Kent, AlphaMicron, Inc. has been capitalizing on the depth of liquid-crystalline materials expertise that has emerged at Kent State University over the past two decades and has given rise to the Liquid Crystal Display industry. A major product focus of the company has been the use of liquid crystal materials to create actively lightening and darkening lenses for motorcycle helmets, ski goggles, and designer sunglasses. The same switchable property of the liquid crystals that makes these applications possible is now being applied, with Ohio Third Frontier funding, to an energy conservation product.
AlphaMicron is developing the world’s first auto-adjusting “Adaptive Window.” The window is based on the company’s VALiD™ liquid crystal-based technology to create an adaptive film that can be laminated to windows and has a self-regulating and photovoltaic-powered electronically controllable tint. The window will transmit more winter sunlight to assist with heating and less summer sunlight to minimize overheating, thus transforming windows from a source of energy loss to one of energy gain. Market applications targeted for AlphaMicron’s window include greenhouses, automobiles, and office and residential buildings.
Several years ago, Miamisburg’s WebCore Technologies, Inc. began working closely with leading research laboratories including the Air Force Research Lab, located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton and the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, to develop an advanced polymer composite panel system. Initially, the product concepts focused on marine (e.g., bulkheads) and infrastructure (bridge decks) applications that could benefit from the new material which is lighter, stronger, and more durable than the steel and other metals it would replace. These very same properties may make WebCore’s technology an ideal material solution for the wind power industry.
The company is now developing the TYCOR® polymer composite material to provide a new, readily available core material for wind turbine blades. With assistance from Ohio Third Frontier, WebCore has developed a reliable supply of TYCOR® to improve wind turbine blade performance while decreasing overall turbine manufacturing costs. WebCore has partnered with leading wind turbine blade manufacturers and other suppliers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Maine to build capabilities that are expanding Ohio’s wind power supply chain and developing wind turbine blade composite core manufacturing in Ohio.
Ohio’s dominance in iron and steel, polymers, and various chemicals has positioned the state to make scientific and technological breakthroughs in new, advanced materials that are revolutionizing many industrial and consumer products. Advanced materials are platforms on which to build world-class competencies in many rapidly growing industrial sectors. The impact of these new materials on the advanced energy industry is one such application that promises to write the next chapter in Ohio’s rich materials expertise.
Fairfield 33 Corridor Offers Ohio Advantage
In the manufacturing industry, growth rarely comes without costs. Companies looking to expand must carefully weigh the expenses against the benefits. For U.S. Corrugated, Inc—the country’s leading independent full-service provider of corrugated packaging and boxes—finding the right place to open a new facility was about more than available square footage; the company needed a location with financial incentives and strategic business advantages in order to operate profitably in a competitive marketplace.
“We had 18 existing plants, but a Midwest location was essential to expanding our national coverage and building a new local customer base,” explains U.S. Corrugated’s Vice President of Engineering and Technology, Richard Goldberg.
In partnership with Anchor Hocking, U.S. Corrugated began an intensive community and land investigation in August 2007 focusing primarily on two Ohio and one Pennsylvania County. The company sought a low cost of doing business, as well as amenities like a strong transportation network, an abundant supply of natural resources, and an established utility infrastructure.
“This project was on a fast track—we needed to build a 300,000+ square foot facility from the ground up and have it operational within a year of beginning our land search. So it was critical to find a site where the utilities were in place and we could start construction quickly,” says Richard.
“Because of our aggressive timeframe, we knew we couldn’t bring our plans to fruition alone,” says Richard. “We were thrilled with the quality of the land and the available amenities in the Fairfield 33 Corridor. But what impressed us most was the willingness of the Fairfield 33 Development Alliance to accommodate our business. The support of the Alliance made the Corridor the clear choice for our new facility.”
The Fairfield 33 Corridor Advantage
Fairfield 33 Development Alliance worked to coordinate assistance from city, state and county organizations and local businesses to put together an offer U.S. Corrugated simply couldn’t refuse.
“The incentive package the Alliance created far exceeded what we would have enjoyed in another location. From helping us reduce operating costs to agreeing to improve the infrastructure around our site to helping with our staffing needs, the Alliance’s assistance positively impacted every aspect of our move,” says Richard.
From a financial perspective, the Alliance’s plan allowed U.S. Corrugated to take advantage of a 15-year, 100 percent real property tax abatement, as well as a 10-year contract with Lancaster Municipal Gas for below-market prices on natural gas.
Many local and regional partners helped make the facility a reality. The contractors’ professionalism, ability to consistently meet tight deadlines and competitive prices allowed the U.S. Corrugated plant to be completed on time and on budget.
“We use railways to bring in the vast amounts of paper used in our production processes,” explains Richard. “The Corridor offers convenient railway access to all businesses. But in our case, city and state organizations and CSX Corporation—a leading national rail-based transportation company—worked with us to extend a railway so it actually comes inside our facility. Transportation doesn’t get much more convenient than that.”
While raw materials come in via rail, finished good go out via truck. To accommodate U.S. Corrugated’s fleet of semis, the City also agreed to widen the local access road leading to the facility.
“Much of the infrastructure essential to our business operations was already in place in the Corridor,” says Richard. “But the Alliance and the City went above and beyond to make additional improvements, from widening roads and replacing bridges to extending an electrical conduit to our facility so we could have a meter right on the building.”
With transportation and infrastructure needs addressed, U.S. Corrugated’s next order of business was acquiring a workforce. Once again, the Fairfield 33 Corridor and the Alliance made the difference.
“The Alliance arranged for us to work with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, an organization that has been instrumental in helping us make all of our local hires,” says Richard. “So far, we’ve brought a staff of 25 on board, and we plan to increase that number to 110 over the next five years.”
The Alliance also made space available to U.S. Corrugated for conducting interviews and completing training activities while the manufacturer’s new building was under construction.
“U.S. Corrugated hasn’t engaged in a full build project like this for 14 years, so we weren’t sure exactly how the process would go,” says Richard. “All of our expectations were far exceeded. Even the local fire and police chiefs got involved, and everyone worked together to make sure our move to the Corridor went off without a hitch,” says Richard.
U.S. Corrugated broke ground on its new $30 million facility in March 2008, and six months later the factory was turning out corrugated boxes and displays. Richard is now able to look back on the entire process and honestly say he would not have done anything differently.
“Once we did our due diligence to find the right land, it all came down to the relationships we’ve built with the people in the area,” says Richard.
“We are ready to enjoy years of success here in the Corridor.”