A big week in Orlando
Imagine an exposition with over 65,000 attendees, over 2,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries in three huge exhibit halls multiple football fields wide and long that goes on for five days. What you have is the National Plastics Exposition (NPE) 2018, The Plastics Show. This show covers every aspect of the plastics industry from manufacturing the resins to producing the products we all use every day. This show is so big it only happens once every 3 years.
That is where we spent this week in Orlando, Fla. We had a great team led by the Polymer Alliance Zone who had the booth, supported by Shale Crescent USA, the West Virginia Development Office and several regional economic development leaders. Our common goal was to bring industry and jobs to West Virginia.
Plastics are made from petrochemicals that come from oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs). These come from wells that almost ALL require hydraulic fracturing whether they are located in Ohio, West Virginia, Saudi Arabia or Russia. The petrochemicals are turned into resins at crackers in places like the Gulf Coast, eastern Canada, locations overseas and soon at the Shell cracker under construction in Monaca, Pa., outside of Pittsburgh. Because the Shale Crescent USA is now producing over 30 percent of the USA’s natural gas and a large part of the USA’s NGLs, we are an ideal place for additional crackers.
These resins are turned into the products we use every day by various processes using high tech automated equipment. Try going an hour without touching something from the plastics industry. I can’t do it. Most of the companies (called converters) that do this work are in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Ohio has more people employed in the plastics industry than any other state.
The converters are here because this is where most of the U.S. and Canadian population is that buy their products.
The technology and engineering used to manufacture something as simple as the bottle cap to a plastic bottle, the packaging for our food, the grill to a car, modern medical equipment or even to make a solar panel will amaze you.
We saw that here at NPE.
Our goal in Orlando was to bring industry and jobs back to our region. This starts with creating awareness. People need to know that this is a great place to bring a business and raise a family. Keith Burdette, President of the Polymer Alliance Zone based in Parkersburg, has been to many NPEs. He said, “We have had more leads from this week’s Expo than any other. People are looking for us and coming to our booth.”
Shale Crescent was able to meet and follow up with three companies we had discussions with at the World Petrochemical Conference (WPC) in March. They all had key decision makers in attendance at NPE. We have been in contact with all three by phone and email since WPC. It is always better when we can talk face to face. Our discussions centered on the IHS-Shale Crescent Study. They now understand and believe that our region has a huge advantage in natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) cost and availability.
These are their feed stocks. They know that we are close to most of the converters. These are their customers. We discussed their needs for things like additional rail infrastructure, NGL storage and work force development. That is why we need students in the programs I talked about last week.
The focus of Shale Crescent USA is on the top 100 energy users in the world. Approximately a third of these companies were represented at NPE and we made a point to contact all of them. Many have such a large presence in the Gulf that they won’t come here. We are actually a threat because our success could impact the natural gas and NGLs they get from the Shale Crescent USA. Others are prospects. We wanted to make sure that we are on their radar screen when they choose to expand. The Polymer Alliance Zone and West Virginia Development Office have a much broader focus.
We complement each other.
This was a good week for West Virginia and Ohio in Orlando. We have a strong team and are working together. We are still in a marathon and are putting miles behind us. We are seeing wins with local firms including West Virginia converters expanding and hiring. We have companies looking hard at our region for expansion. I learned that one West Virginia firm has hired over 30 engineers from WVU and Marshall in just the past year.
These are young people who will stay here and raise their families here. We all need to continue to keep a positive attitude, believe and prepare.
Thoughts to ponder.
Greg Kozera is the Director of Marketing for Shale Crescent USA www.shalecrescentusa.com. He has over 40 years of experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert with a Masters in Environmental Engineering and the author of four books and numerous published articles.