WASHINGTON - Thirty-two molders of expanded polystyrene block, unhappy with attempts to promote their product by the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. of Washington, have formed their own trade association. The new group's president called SPI's $900,000 marketing and certification program forAccu-R roof insulation an ``absolute bloody disaster.''
``The name of the game is to have members run it, not lawyers,'' said Michael Wall, president of the Molded Expanded Polystyrene Manufacturers Association/Block Molders Group, and president and chief execu-tive officer of foam molder Premier Industries Inc. of Tacoma, Wash.
MEPSMA wants to promote EPS insulation for construction, but members feel that they cannot do that effectively within SPI, which also represents manu-facturers of competing insulation materials.
``There is a group of us who would gladly join SPI for pur-poses in which all of us have a convergent interest,'' such as legislative action on fire codes, said Steve Hastings, chief executive officer of NPS Corp. in Perryville, Mo., and a MEPSMA board member.
But SPI, through its EPS Insulation Marketing Council, ``spent $900,000 on a program, Accu-R, and didn't accomplish much of anything,'' he said.
MEPSMA met two weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. SPI's Expanded Polystyrene Division was holding its annual meeting at the same time at the same hotel.
SPI President Larry Thomas, already in town to address EPS Division members, attended the MEPSMA meeting. It was the second meeting for the new group, according to one board member. The first was in Chicago.
William Roeling, who was hired by the EPS Division in 1990 to direct the roofing insulation campaign, argued that the Accu-R program has met with some success.
Five roofing manufacturers now list Accu-R as an acceptable insulation, Roeling said, and the campaign convinced the state of Illinois to approve EPS insulation for state-funded capital improvement, reversing a 17-year ban.
The current chairman of SPI's EPS division, Mort Rosen - president of Polyfoam Packers Corp., a foam container and packaging material manufacturer in Wheeling, Ill. - is a member of the new group's board of directors.
The organization is forming marketing and technical committees, which, along with the discussion of a formal name, are expected to be on the agenda when MEPSMA's executive committee gathers again April 27 in Chicago.
Other MEPSMA board members are Greg Bontrager, president of Cellofoam of Conyers, Ga.; Dirk Buth, president of Falcon Manufacturing of Michigan Inc., based in Byron Center, Mich.; Bill McGarrity, vice president of Pacemaker Plastics Inc. of Newcomerstown, Ohio; Stuart Corn, president of Poly Molding Corp. of Haskell, N.J.; Gene Stanley of Star ``R'' Foam in Fort Worth, Texas; and John Huempfner, president of Wisconsin EPS in Fond Du Lac, Wis.
Five of the nine board members' companies are not currently members of SPI: Cellofoam, NPS Corp., Pacemaker Plastics, Poly Molding and Star ``R'' Foam.
SPI is not involved in the activities of the new organization.
SPI spokesman Jack LaCovey noted, ``We would prefer that any marketing group be formed under our umbrella. But because of the constraints that we have, if a marketing group wants to form outside SPI, we understand.'' One of those constraints is that ``we don't allow criticism of other members' materials,'' LaCovey said.
At the Florida meeting, Carl Wangman, president of Wangman Management Associates of Glenview, Ill., was selected to organize the association. Wangman insists MEPSMA was not formed out of a belief that SPI failed to do its job.
``They're not knocking SPI; they just couldn't market to the construction industry and the roofing industry through an umbrella organization,'' Wangman said.
SPI covers the entire plastics industry, including foamed insulation materials that compete against EPS.
For example, SPI's EPS Division represents both expanded and extruded PS. SPI also has members that make spray-on foamed polyurethane insulation and polyisocyanurate insulation.
Board member Huempfner noted the new group was formed because ``this [EPS] industry was hungry for a group to unify it and to combat some of the inconsistencies we have seen in our products.
``It's not just marketing we hope to do with this group, although that is the single-largest purpose at this time. We need to unify, to bring together fragmented factions,'' he said.
Most block molders of expanded PS are small, family-owned firms that serve regional markets.
Huempfner noted that ``SPI is a strong lobbying force in the legislative arena.'' He acknowledged previous EPS marketing attempts, adding that ``the only thing different about this time is that we're not hamstrung by a bureaucracy.''
Wangman Associates has experience starting construction-products trade groups. The firm helped form the Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association, a group advocating the use of one of the most competitive products to EPS in the roofing industry. Carl Wangman was also behind the creation of the Single-Ply Roofing Institute.
Rosen was so dedicated to the idea of a new marketing program for EPS that he ``loaned'' an executive of his company, Steve Kaplan, to serve as acting executive director of the new association, Wangman said. Kaplan has opened a MEPSMA office in Gurnee, Ill., north of Chicago.
Wangman said he did not know the dollar amount each of the 32 companies had been assessed to become part of the marketing group, but believed it would be established on a sliding scale according to the level of a member company's gross sales. He also said his management fee was ``in negotiation,'' but noted, ``Their decision will be based on the knowledge that they want top-flight association management experience.''
A member of the new association, Richard H. Nickloy, vice president and general manager of Contour Products in Kansas City, Mo., noted MEPSMA's emphasis is promoting EPS as a material.
``A lot of [marketing] efforts in the past have been related to one product, not one material,'' he said.
EPS is made using many of the same processes, but ``we've been targeted as inferior products by non-EPS producers.''
Two other industry groups last week supported MEPSMA. AFM Corp. probably will become an affiliate member, said Mike Tobin, executive vice president. AFM of Excelsior, Minn., is owned by 19 EPS foam manufacturers that do collective research and development and marketing.
PIMA, based in Washington, welcomed the group.
``If this means that there's going to be increased activity in promoting energy efficiency and increasing building code standards ... we wholeheartedly welcome them to the marketplace and look forward to working with them,'' said PIMA President Jared Blum.