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Leaders of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and American Plastics Council pledged their groups will work together in the bustling state political arenas.

The Washington-based trade groups held a joint news conference by telephone Jan. 8 to announce ``the unification of their state government affairs operations.''

Originally created as an offshoot of SPI and the Washington-based Chemical Manufacturers Association, APC apparently has become a permanent fixture in Washington. Recently, some industry leaders have predicted that SPI and APC eventually will merge into one organization. But the presidents of the two organizations, SPI's Larry Thomas and APC's Red Cavaney, would not discuss that subject.

As the news conference started, both men stated they would not answer questions about a full merger, because the issue is just starting to be addressed by the boards of directors of both groups.

``Not even our respective boards have had a chance to even engage in a full discussion of the unification,'' Thomas said.

Cavaney said: ``The officers are talking, and will talk further. ... More is going to go on, but to what extent, we really don't know.''

Both boards are meeting this month. APC's board will meet Jan. 14 in Washington. SPI's annual board meeting is Jan. 22-24 in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

How to work with APC is not the front-burner issue facing SPI leaders, who are studying what could be a major restructuring. SPI board members are scheduled to hear a task force's report on lowering dues for processors and giving more autonomy to divisions and regional offices.

But during the Jan. 8 teleconference, Thomas and Cavaney limited their discussion to the issue of working together on state and local issues.

Previously, SPI and APC lobbyists did not have this type of formal working relationship. But as the action shifts to the states — with state governments becoming more active and new regional plastics processors groups springing up — SPI and APC leaders said they want to make sure the groups coordinate.

Thomas conceded that has not always been the case.

``At the state level, there's been some confusion,'' he said.

SPI is the industry's umbrella organization. Only a few years old, APC is best-known to the public for its national ``Take Another Look'' television and radio advertisements touting plastics.

APC also handles solid waste and recycling issues. APC has 27 resin-manufacturer members.

Despite repeatedly using the word ``unification,'' Thomas and Cavaney said there are no plans to consolidate staffs or offices. SPI and APC each will continue to run four regional U.S. field offices. Each group still will have its own separate funding and budget.

According to Cavaney, there is no intention to reduce funding to either organization. The goal, he said, is ``more value [for] the same amount of dollars'' by making SPI and SPI ``speak with one voice.''

As of Jan. 1, the groups formed SPI/APC State Government Affairs. Managing the operations will be Roger Bernstein, senior director of government affairs and regional operations. Bernstein is a veteran of both SPI and APC. He will work with the vice presidents of government affairs for both groups — Lewis R. Freeman Jr. at SPI and Rodney Lowman at APC.

SPI/APC State Government Affairs also will help both groups work more effectively with state-based processor trade organizations that have sprung up in recent years, both organizations said.