Spotlight on new talent in the industry

By: Don Loepp

August 13, 2014

This week’s issue includes 20 profiles of some young high achievers — our first-ever batch of Plastics News Rising Stars (here are links to the profiles). And I have an important comment about that, right off the bat: I would have liked to have at least 20 more.

There’s a lot of good young talent in the plastics industry, and we were able to highlight just a fraction of the deserving nominees.

Putting together the Rising Stars list was a treat. I was overwhelmed by the response to the project. We announced the awards in a Viewpoint column in the June 9 issue of Plastics News, and after it was published, my email inbox was immediately full of nominations.

And that was before we even put anything online!

Many of the people you see profiled this week were nominated by someone else. That was encouraging. I enjoyed reading all the notes that came from well known plastics industry veterans — you know, people my age — who wanted to single out a young person (or two) who they felt deserved special recognition.

At least half of the emails I received were self-nominated. That’s cool too — we gave the young leaders in the plastics industry an opportunity to step up and ask for a turn at the podium, and they did.

I traded a lot of emails and phone calls with the nominees, and I knew right away that this would be a successful project. Their enthusiasm was contagious. It was nice to see so much positive energy about the plastics industry, their companies, their careers and their mentors.

I tried to narrow the nominees down to a manageable number, but it wasn’t easy. In the end, I asked PN correspondent Jeannie Reall to help narrow the list to 20 — and I asked for four extra pages in this issue to fit them all in print.

Thanks Brennan!

As you read the profiles, you’ll notice some recurring themes:

• Several nominees mentioned that concern about the environment is an important factor that affects their decisions. At least a couple said they themselves are truly concerned for the environment. It’s a new generation!

• There were at least five mentions of dogs being part of the family. Is that just a millennial/Generation X thing?

• Many emphasized the importance of having a strong management team. Perhaps good managers help to breed good young talent? That’s something to think about, for all the baby boomer leaders who wonder where the next generation of company leaders is coming from.

• We expected all the Rising Stars to have active Twitter feeds, with hundreds of followers. No such luck. A few of this group made a point of saying that they don’t tweet at all.

• Many of the nominees said they were drawn to the plastics industry because of a fascination with the many facets of plastics, the creativity and variety and usefulness of plastics, how diverse the industry is and materials are. They describe their initial interest in plastics with words like intrigued, fascinated, inspired, amazed, eager, passion, excitement, they fell in love.

• Several said they are surprised that more young people aren’t entering the industry.

I hope we’re helping draw attention to a few future company presidents and industry leaders. I have a pretty strong feeling that we are.

And for everyone who just missed out this year, we’re planning to make this an annual event. Watch this space in 2015.

Better yet, maybe I’ll just tweet the announcement next year. #CallAllRisingStars?

Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”