Medical Plastics: Getting Bigger As Boomers Get Older

The need for medical plastics continues to grow despite the economic downturn as there is greater demand for life-saving and quality of life products to meet the needs of our aging population.

The use of plastics in the medical field is constantly increasing; it is estimated to reach the $4 billion mark in the next two years in the U.S., according to The need to reduce healthcare costs, and the use of disposable medical supplies, are important factors generating a higher demand for medical plastics. Also, new materials with improved properties are being developed in order to satisfy the requirements of infection-control standards.

The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) says that plastics have improved health care in the U.S. exponentially in hospitals and at home. Not too long ago, almost no medical packaging had tamper-evident seals. Today, nearly 100% of all pharmaceutical packaging does. In addition, child-resistant caps help keep medicines away from little hands. Surgical gloves made of soft pliable plastic help preserve the sterile environment of hospital operating rooms. Plastics permeate medicine: From the smallest tubing to the open MRI machine, plastics deliver when lives are on the line. Many of today’s most innovative medical procedures are dependent on the use of plastics. From machinery housing to petri dishes, plastics serve health-care needs both large and small. As the need for home healthcare continues to increase, the need for plastic medical devices will grow with it, playing a role in saving lives and improving quality of life as our population ages.

That’s why growth in the plastics industry has continued despite the economic downturn. According to trade statistics issued in July by the U.S. International Trade Commission, U.S. plastics exports increased for the sixth straight month. Specifically, plastics exports increased by just less than three percent in July, month-on-month, to $3.8 billion. A recent survey conducted on behalf of SPI gave strong evidence of a resurging plastics industry as well.

“The plastics processor survey results give strong evidence of a resurging plastics industry,” says SPI president and CEO William R. Carteaux. “They also help to balance the ‘doom and gloom’ reports and put today’s economic crisis in proper perspective.  While it’s certainly not business as usual out there, the survey results show that this industry continues to move forward and that there is still money to be made for those companies properly positioned in today’s rapidly changing marketplace. I have always been proud of our industry’s continuing innovation and ability to re-invent itself in order to match consumer demand and societal shifts. These survey results confirm to me another valued trait of our industry: perseverance. Despite the darkest economic conditions our nation has faced since the Great Depression, this industry marches forward and finds the glimmers of light shining through the cracks.”

For expanding or relocating your medical plastics operations, here are some key locations that are creating opportunities that will be beneficial to your business.

San Antonio, TX: Medical Devices Drive Bio-Health Hub

San Antonio’s medical device industry is a strong part of the city’s thriving bioscience and healthcare industry. With an annual economic impact of more than $16 billion and more than 116,000 employees, according to a recent Healthcare and Bioscience Economic Impact Study commissioned by the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the bioscience and healthcare industry is the city’s number one economic generator. One of every seven San Antonio employees works in this sector of cutting-edge research, world-renowned educational institutions, nationally recognized healthcare systems and leading biotech companies.

In May 2009, Medtronic, Inc., a global medical technology company, announced the location of its new Diabetes Therapy Management and Education Center in San Antonio. The center is expected to generate nearly 1,400 jobs during a five-year period. According to company officials, Medtronic evaluated more than 930 locations across the United States, assessing quality of life, availability of skilled labor, local costs and business environment.

“By expanding their diabetes division in San Antonio, I believe that Medtronic is sending a clear message that the core strength of Texas’ economy, built on our low taxes, fair legal system and predictable regulatory climate make the Lone Star State the best place to live, work and raise a family,” said Texas Gov. Rick Perry when Medtronic’s site selection decision was announced.

San Antonio is also home to several medical device companies born and built in the city. Kinetic Concepts, Inc., a medical technology company focused on therapies and products for wound care, tissue regeneration and therapeutic support, has launched a variety of products during its 30-year history. The company now markets its products in more than 20 countries.

Vidacare is a medical device company with an exclusive technology platform that allows clinicians to access the interior of bones (known as the “intraosseous space”) quickly and relatively painlessly. The company has experienced significant growth and received recognition in 2008 from The Wall Street Journal, which awarded the company’s EZ-IO product system top honors at the publication’s Innovation Award competition.

As part of the city’s medical device industry, companies like Medtronic, KCI and VidaCare are supported by a large medical research and education system. San Antonio is home to more than 700 Ph.D. bioscientists at academic institutions, the world’s largest genomics computing cluster, the nation’s only privately owned biosafety level four (BSL-4) maximum containment laboratory, and Southwest Research Institute—one of the nation’s largest non-profit, independent research and development organizations.

According to the San Antonio Medical Foundation, 45 medical-related institutions are based in the 900-acre South Texas Medical Center (STMC), with combined annual budgets, including research, totaling nearly $3 billion. The STMC has approximately 27,000 medically related employees. Capital improvements in progress and projected over the next five years total $640 million, and the Center has nearly 300 acres available for future expansion. The STMC is recognized worldwide for the impact of its research, patient diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, degree programs, continuing education and state-of-the-art physical structures.

The future of this leading industry falls to the more than 134,000 students attending the area’s 11 universities and growing two-year community college system, preparing to enter the local workforce. Leading the way is the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, which was named by Hispanic Business magazine a top-10 U.S. medical school for Hispanics. Trinity University’s Health Care Administration program was ranked as one of the top healthcare management graduate programs in the country and earned a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s 2009 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools.

San Antonio’s rich mixture of research, education and private companies makes it one of the nation’s leaders in healthcare, and an appealing place for medical device industry professionals to pursue careers and for companies to do business.


Laurens County, SC: Plastics Workforce Ready for Business

Plastics companies, such as Beden-Baugh Products, Dispoz-o-Plastics, Faurecia, Fehrer, Fukoku, ISO Poly Films, Lacks Industries, Teknor Apex, Sterilite and Ware Shoals Plastics, employ approximately 25 percent of the workforce in Laurens County, SC. Of those companies, three have expanded their operations in the county in the past five years. Located in the upstate area of South Carolina, Laurens County is mid-way between Greenville-Spartanburg and Columbia. It is dissected by Interstates 26 and 385, which makes the county easily accessible to I-85 and the Port of Charleston. Clemson’s Advance Material Research School is located in neighboring Anderson County. This facility is just a short distance away and easily accessible by the Interstate systems.

“Clemson’s Packaging School is one of the few premier packaging schools in the country,” says Jon McClure, CEO of ISO Poly in Gray Court, SC. “We support the school financially because of the benefit it provides our company. It is very important to create the new packaging of tomorrow.”

Laurens County has four Industrial Parks located along its interstate highways. Woodfield Industrial Park is located near Exit 22 on I-385 and Owings Industrial Park is located near Exit 19 on I-385 both of which are near the Greenville/Laurens County line. Woodfield Industrial Park has approximately 130 acres remaining and Owings Industrial Park has 316 acres. Owings Park has rail service provided by RailAmerica. RailAmerica transports over 500 million pounds of polymer annually. Hunter Industrial Park is located on I-385 and US 221 at Exit 9 and has almost 400 acres available and is rail served by CSX. ClintonPark Corporate Center Phase III is available for industrial development. Phase 3 is just over 1 mile from Exit 54 on I-26 and has 140 acres available. It has access to rail, which is served by CSX. Owings, Hunter and Clinton Park III are certified sites by the South Carolina Department of Commerce.

In addition to the parks, Laurens County has several stand-alone sites that are rail served. One such property is the Fleming Smith site, which is 1,500 acres. It is located at the intersection of I-385 and U.S. 221 in Laurens. The site is rail served by CSX. A Site Evaluation and Engineering Report (SEER) has been completed on this site. The SEER includes a Phase I Environmental Study, a Geotechnical Study, a Wetlands Determination, an Endangered Species Study, a Cultural Resources Study, a Seismic Study, an Infrastructure Evaluation with Infrastructure Cost Estimates and the site has been Master Planned.

The county has several buildings available for immediate occupancy. There is a 31,600 SF spec building with 28-33 ft. ceiling heights in the Woodfield Industrial Park. This building was completed in January 2007. Also available in Gray Court is an 80,000 SF building that was formerly occupied by BBA Non-Woven. The building has six silos, a rail spur with a covered unloading area and a ground water tank for fire suppression.

While current unemployment in the county is 11%, roughly equivalent to the current state average, employment in the plastics sector continues to be the mainstay of the area’s economy. Thirty-two percent of the employment in the county is in the plastics industry; many of these jobs serve the automobile industry.

The cost of operation in Laurens County is very attractive. Laurens County Council is very pro-business and offers aggressive tax reductions. For example, on a two and half million-dollar investment, the county can reduce the assessment ratio thus reducing taxes by over 40 percent for a period of 20 years. In addition, the county also has the ability to offer a Special Source Revenue Credit that further reduces taxes for a period of ten years. Laurens County is classified a level two county by the state, which makes state incentives very attractive. In addition to these incentives, the county’s average wage is below the state average resulting in an even lower cost of operation.

The State of South Carolina also offers one of the nations best training programs with the ReadySC Training program. This program is consistently one of the top ranked training programs in the country. Laurens County Council will reduce taxes by a minimum of 42% over a 20-year period if the investment is at least $2.5 million. Other tax reduction is available based on capital investment.

Laurens County offers a rural living environment while the metropolitan life style is only minutes away. Lake Greenwood, which borders Laurens County offers water sports, fishing and lakefront properties. Presbyterian College in Clinton offers college sports and theater opportunities. Musgrove Mill Golf Club, designed by Arnold Palmer, offers one of the most challenging courses in the state. Laurens County’s location offers a near-perfect climate with no abnormally rainy or dry seasons.

Why locate in Laurens County? It is an excellent location with easy accessibility, a good available workforce, low cost of operation and a great rural community in which to raise a family. For more information, visit or contact the county at 864-939-0580.