Pennsylvania’s plastics industry took center stage at the NPE 2015 International Plastics Showcase in Orlando, Florida.

Pennsylvania economic development officials made over 200 contacts with international and domestic plastic manufacturers at the recent NPE 2015 International Plastics Showcase in Orlando, Florida.

“Of the 200-plus contacts we made at the convention, 30 percent were foreign-owned companies,” said Lauren Bryson, Executive Director, Focus Central Pennsylvania. “So, overall I thought it was a tremendous success for CORE PA Global from the FDI (foreign direct investment) perspective.”

CORE PA Global is the centerpiece of a Pennsylvania initiative established to increase the visibility of the state’s footprint to international and domestic investors, reshoring prospects and securing foreign direct investment through the Make It In America federal grant program.

As part of the initiative, the group elected to attend trade shows to gain greater exposure for Pennsylvania and to promote state-based businesses to a global audience, according to Kate Skopp, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Department of Community and Economic Development’s Office of International Business Development.  Skopp noted the NPE show had 60,000 participants, buying teams from 100 countries, and more than 20,000 unique companies.

“Pennsylvania’s commitment to the plastics industry coupled with our geographic location, infrastructure, skilled workforce, education network, and new energy discoveries make Pennsylvania a prime location for business and industry,” Skopp said. “DCED’s presence at NPE, in collaboration with our partners, allowed us to offer international companies customized assistance in establishing their business in Pennsylvania as well as assisting existing PA companies with their exporting needs from leads that were generated at the show.”

Ryan Unger, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Team Pennsylvania Foundation said the state was represented by a diverse mix of partners from the public and private sectors.

“Team PA was proud to be part of this collaborative effort to bring attention to all of the assets that make Pennsylvania a great place to do business,” Unger said. “Pennsylvania was well-represented and we look forward to working with our economic development partners in building even stronger relationships with the companies we had a chance to meet with while at the show.”

Attending the plastics convention made perfect sense since the commonwealth has an extensive network of plastics manufacturers and supply chain businesses across Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania is 5th in the nation in size for the plastics and rubber industry,” Bryson said. “There is significant supply chain in industries that align with plastic companies as well – and we saw that down at the show.”

Bryson said there was plenty of interest in Pennsylvania as a business destination. Topics discussed at the state’s booth in the exhibit hall ranged from conversations about Pennsylvania’s top-notch workforce to market logistics, infrastructure and the state’s abundant supply of energy.

“There was a lot of interest and questions about energy,” Bryson said. We spoke about Pennsylvania’s large natural gas fields, infrastructure and costs. One theme we kept hearing is that quite a few countries have seen their (energy) costs increase over the past few years. The fact that we were able to promote PA as home to low-cost energy was good for the state.”

Workforce was another hot topic at the plastics show, Bryson said.

“Some companies that left (PA) to go to other states now want to come back because of the dedication of our workforce but also for access to students, especially within the field of plastics who are graduating with four-year degrees,” Bryson said. “Businesses are also interested in having access to the outstanding R & D that schools like Pennsylvania College of Technology and The Behrend College in Erie are providing for companies in the plastics industry.”

Booth reps also used the state’s proximity to 75 percent of the United States’ population and easy access to Canada as a talking point at the trade show.

“Proximity to market and logistics were important topics,” Bryson said. “They wanted to know what it costs to get their products to market.”

One of the most interesting and unforeseen conversations with show attendees focused on returning to Pennsylvania and re-establishing roots here.

“Whether people used to live here, went to college here, or previously worked in Pennsylvania, we noticed this desire within people to come back to Pennsylvania,” Bryson said. “That not only speaks well of Pennsylvania as a business destination, but that the state is also a great place to live and call home.”

Next steps will include follow-up with the contacts that were made at the show to discuss Pennsylvania as a business destination.