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Byline: John Russell
Aug. 17--As it comes time to bury the Ohio Polymer Enterprise Development Corp., there's a lot of finger-pointing going on over who killed the organization that was supposed to help transform Northeast Ohio into the Polymer Valley.
The organization was supposed to create thousands of jobs around Ohio by helping inventors and entrepreneurs turn their polymer ideas into new hot-selling products and startup companies.
But after burning through about $2 million in state funds in less than two years, the group has created only a few dozen jobs in a handful of companies that are mostly still struggling to find money and get off the ground.
Earlier this year, the state said it would not give more funds to the organization, known informally as OPED, saying it should have found ways by now to support itself.
In June, OPED closed its offices in East Akron, eliminating its staff of two -- a president and secretary. It also briefly closed its pilot plant -- a small laboratory with chemical reactors, set up just a few months earlier at a cost of about $600,000, where researchers could make and test new polymer materials.
A few months earlier, OPED dismissed a team of about 10 part-time management consultants who were to give business advice to fledgling entrepreneurs around Ohio.
Although established by the University of Akron, OPED soon found itself held at arm's length from the school and its rich pool of polymer researchers. No technology from the UA's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering was transferred by OPED to private enterprise.
And when OPED turned to private industry for new ideas, it wasn't able to build enough momentum before the budget ax fell.
Now, OPED is just a paper organization managed by the University of Akron. It is set to expire in January, when the last of the state funds run out.
It's a far cry from just a year ago, when the OPED board and staff was busy trying to help inventors launch a slew of promising technologies, from anthrax detectors to long-lasting carpet fresheners, that could give Northeast Ohio a huge boost in jobs and prosperity.
Polymers are long chains of molecules that can be engineered into a wide variety of plastic and rubber products, from plastic forks to artificial organs.
Ohio is nationally known for the amount of polymer …