Award to NorTech may bring more businesses, jobs to Kent

Jessica Roblin

The U.S. Small Business Administration recently awarded almost $500,000 in funding to the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition, a nonprofit economic development organization.

The money, granted on Sept. 20, will support Northeast Ohio’s flexible electronics industry rooted in the Liquid Crystal Institute’s innovations at Kent State.

“We had a brand and we had all the players together,” said Rebecca O. Bagley, president and CEO of NorTech. “This money is at a really pivotal point.”??

In hopes of job creation and small businesses expansion, NorTech will use the $499,514 to provide funds and business counseling to Kent Displays Inc., Alpha Micron and other small businesses.

The cluster, a group including universities, small and large businesses and counseling sources, will have a chance to work as a unit to commercialize products.

“Collaborating with the companies and institutions within the cluster, as well as organizations like NorTech, help us to identify and/or share resources, talent and opportunities to collectively accelerate our growth and theirs,” said Kevin Oswald, communications director of Kent Displays Inc.??

The local electronics cluster aims to inexpensively manufacture electronic devices printed on flexible materials. Northeast Ohio’s companies and research institutions specialize in polymers, flexible displays, printed circuits and other advanced electronic mechanisms.

An example of these products would be the Boogie Board LCD Writing Tablet from Improv Electronics, a Kent Displays company. Like an endlessly reusable pad of paper, it’s a slim version of the Etch-A-Sketch gone high-tech. The board can be taken anywhere and used for notes and drawings.

With NorTech using Kent State’s Manufacturing and Technology Small Business Development Center to counsel the electronics group, small businesses hope electronics like the Boogie Board will be noticed by larger electronics companies.

??“For Kent Displays, this could manifest itself in a larger company incorporating our Reflex LCD Electronic Skins or Writing Tablets into their product,” Oswald said. ?

The Small Business Development Center will bring cluster businesses together along with others for the initiative, which seeks to expand commercialization and use of flexible electronics in Northeast Ohio.??

“They (businesses) are able to have a more robust work force available to them,” Bagley said. “They are able to have research dollars they may not get without that partner.”

Contact Jessica Roblin at [email protected].