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Chemical Manufacturing Makes Modern Life Work

Chemical engineering produces everything from detergents to fabric dye, and much of that work happens here in Cincinnati.

REDI Cincinnati’s research team has developed industry sector analyses, and these insightful documents highlight the most important areas poised to drive the region’s economic progress, both in the present and the near future. Spanning diverse sectors, the reports touch upon areas from sustainable packaging to semiconductors. Their comprehensive nature ensures that stakeholders have a clear understanding of emerging trends and potential growth avenues.

The following report focuses on chemical manufacturing, our region’s second-largest exporting industry and one with huge growth potential in the coming years.

What Is Chemical Manufacturing?

Unless you’re in the industry, the term “chemical manufacturing” might sound big and, frankly, a little bit intimidating. And while the sector does encompass a number of divisions, many of the products that derive from chemical manufacturing are common in most of our daily lives.

So what is “chemical manufacturing?” In the strictest of definitions, this sector applies to companies that transform organic and inorganic raw materials by a chemical process into products. And what are these products? Soap’s a big one, as are paints and adhesives. Synthetic dye is in there, too, and so are petroleum oils and grease.

Chemical manufacturing may not be as trendy as semiconductors or as exciting as life sciences, but can you think of anything more critical than the adhesives holding everything together (literally)? Or the lubricants that keep your car running? Or soap in a pandemic-affected world?

The products produced by the chemical manufacturing industry and the collective focus areas that comprise the subsector are essential to daily life in our modern world. And they’re big business, too—especially here in Cincinnati—with an economic impact that’s only expected to grow.

A Closer Look at Chemical Manufacturing

When we say “chemical manufacturing,” really we’re talking about a cluster of industries that all fall under the “downstream chemical products” banner. These specifications help us track the chemical manufacturing work being done in the region, what products are being exported and jobs that are particularly concentrated in the Cincinnati area.

So, here’s a more detailed breakdown of those specifications under the chemical manufacturing industry cluster:

  • Soap, cleaning compound and toilet preparation
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine
  • Basic chemical
  • Paint, coating and adhesives
  • Other chemicals (product and preparation)
  • Resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial and synthetic fibers and filaments
  • Pesticide, fertilizer and other agricultural chemical

Economic Impact of Chemical Manufacturing Industry in Cincinnati

Chemical manufacturing is a big deal here in our region, which ranks as the 19th largest exporter among U.S. MSAs.

Of course, looking at these specifications, we can see a number of products produced by a Cincinnati powerhouse, P&G. While P&G is a major contributor to our local economy and the chemical manufacturing ecosystem, more than 200 companies in our area operate in the chemical manufacturing space, including Kao, Shepherd Chemical, ThermoFischer Scientific, Gorilla Glue, L’Oreal, BASF and many more.

All of this chemical manufacturing work adds up to a powerful economic driver, too, and the second-strongest exporting cluster in our region (after aerospace, another massive industry). In fact, our region has twice the concentration of chemical manufacturing activity as any comparable region.

Given the current trends, the industry shows promising signs of regional expansion in the near future. With a GRP of $11.2B and a workforce nearing 14,000 (which has seen a growth of 14 percent over the past five years), its vitality is evident. Out of a total product demand surpassing $9B, our region alone accounts for $3.5B, satisfying 40% of the total demand.

The Future of Chemical Manufacturing in Cincinnati

Beyond the promising data around chemical manufacturing in our region, we have a host of in-region factors to support this sector’s growth locally.

Our region is a notable hotspot for chemical manufacturing talent, with 13,394 industry workers calling our region home—more than twice the national average. These positions range from equipment operators and inventory clerks to chemists, sales reps and machinery mechanics. This density of talent is answered by a number of job listings above and beyond the national average (361 to the average of 258). And with an average salary that also exceeds the national average we can be sure to attract the best talent.

With the industry expected to grow locally as links in the supply chain strengthen, so, too, is future employment expected to grow by 4 percent through 2027. Our local universities play a large role in readying this growing workforce, too, with centers of learning such as University of Cincinnati and Miami University offering a number of programs and degrees designed to support the industry and lead to high-paying chemical manufacturing career paths. And, we also have the Cincinnati Innovation District®️, which is only strengthening our region as a developer of STEM talent.

So next time you wash your hands, take your car to the mechanic or visit your neighborhood pharmacy, remember there’s a booming industry supporting Cincinnati’s growing economy behind so many products critical to our daily lives.