KENT, OH – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a roundtable today with representatives from NorTech, Kent Displays, and other flexible electronics cluster stakeholders at Kent Displays to discuss clusters-based job growth and the flexible electronics sector.

“NorTech, Kent Displays, and all the companies and institutions represented at today’s roundtable are leading the way in sectors-based job growth. These flexible electronic companies, part of the FlexMatters Cluster, are proving that we can successfully match regional expertise with emerging industries,” Brown said. “In fact, the work that FlexMatters is doing is so successful that even President Obama has taken notice. That’s why I’ll be reintroducing my SECTORS Act to promote cluster-based job growth throughout our state and the country.”

“Experts predict the global flexible electronics market to grow to $250 billion by 2025. Given Northeast Ohio’s strength in liquid crystals and polymers, this industry presents a world class opportunity for our region,” said Rebecca O. Bagley, President and CEO of NorTech.“We believe it is important to have a partnership with the federal government to accelerate the growth of regional innovation clusters, like FlexMatters, to create jobs, attract capital, and have a long-term, positive economic impact.”

“It's becoming clear that flexible electronics can be a job creation engine for Northeast Ohio—and Kent Displays is delighted to host Senator Brown's roundtable discussion on the topic,” said Kent Displays CEO Dr. Albert Green. “FlexMatters, which supports and promotes the flexible electronics cluster, is an important forum for member companies, organizations and institutions to interact and discuss shared goals and concerns.  We look forward to the Senator’s participation in this forum during the roundtable—and continued dialog as we seek to exploit the regions unique high volume manufacturing infrastructure in exciting new ways.”   

Brown has held more 170 roundtables throughout the state since taking office. He also recently announced plans to reintroduce the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act, which addresses the disparity between high unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled workers for many emerging industries. Despite the nation’s 9.3 percent unemployment rate, there is still demand in today's labor market for skilled workers. This is particularly true for “middle-skill” jobs that require more than a high school degree but less than a four-year college degree. These jobs make up nearly half of America’s labor market and provide good compensation for workers.

The SECTORS Act would organize stakeholders connected to a regional industry—multiple firms, unions, education and training providers, and local workforce and education system administrators-to develop plans for growing that industry. Eligible entities would be able to apply for a one year planning grant of up to $250,000 and a three year implementation grant of up to $2.5 million.

According to Nortech, flexible electronics is a new science and manufacturing opportunity for printing electronic devices on flexible plastic materials. The flexible electronics industry is driven by the global demand for electronic products to get smaller, lighter and consume less power. Because these devices can bend and flex, cost less to manufacture, and are more shock resistant than traditional electronics, they can be integrated into items such as clothing, packaging and portable devices.