TORONTO-SPI Canada will transform itself into a more efficient organization that should be more responsive to companies based outside central Canada's industrial heartland in Ontario and Quebec. Taking a page from its corporate members' playbook, SPI Canada will merge with the Environment and Plastics Institute of Canada and the technology-oriented Canadian Plastics Institute.
``We want to provide a better return on association investment and we want more regional focus,'' said SPI Canada President Pierre Dubois. Officials expect to consolidate the three associations, allbased in Mississauga, Ontario, by midyear.
The new organization will focus on trade, training, technology and the environment. The three current associations often overlap their efforts in these areas.
``We don't want to see duplication and wasted efforts,'' Dubois explained.
The combined entity ``will be very beneficial and offer one-stop shopping (for services),'' said Roger Keeley, general manager for the polyethylene division of film and bag producer Atlantic Packaging Products Ltd. of Scarborough, Ontario.
``It's a sign of the times,'' according to Keeley. ``Mergers can reduce costs and do a better job.''
Dubois said officials want more companies to join the ``one industry-one voice'' association. SPI Canada membership declined for several years as some firms left the group and as mergers and plant closures reduced its membership base.
Membership dues, at C$2.4 million (US$1.75 million) in 1991, slipped to C$1.7 million (US$1.2 million) by 1994.
One western custom molder would consider rejoining if the new association addressed western Canadian issues more vigorously.
``The main complaint I had was SPI Canada talked about being a nationwide group but it poorly served western Canada,'' said Ehor Babij, president of Amptech Corp. of Calgary, Alberta. Amptech withdrew from SPI Canada several years ago.
The co-chairman of SPI Canada's British Columbia chapter said he hopes ``to see stronger regional representation and enhanced sensitivity to local issues.''
More western members are needed to have critical mass for training programs and other activities, according to Greg Howard, president of custom molder Columbia Plastics Ltd. of Surrey, British Columbia.
The new association's structure has yet to be defined but some officials envision an association with basic services and optional services to which members can subscribe. A firm concerned about a specific environmental issue, for example, could pay an extra fee to support the association's work on the issue.
Gerry Finn, vice president of public affairs for resin supplier Novacor Chemicals Ltd. of Calgary, Alberta, is chairman of the steering committee designing the new organization. He is also chairman of EPIC.
Officials said it is too early to speculate on funding streams and their allocation.
SPI Canada's membership fees last year brought in about C$1.8 million (US$1.3 million). The Plast-Ex '95 trade show, held every three years, contributed another C$1.2 million (US$876,000) in 1995.
Interest and other income are much smaller, variable revenue streams. They totaled about C$203,000 (US$148,000) in 1994. The triennial Expoplast trade show scheduled for Montreal this fall, brings in about C$250,000 (US$183,000) in years it is held.
SPI Canada vice president Faris Shammas said the association has about 450 members, including 300 manufacturers. In early 1995, processors and machinery and mold makers accounted for about 62 percent of membership dues, with raw material suppliers paying the rest.
EPIC's annual revenues are about C$1.9 million (US$1.4 million), mostly from its 38 members, estimated the group's president Sandra Birkenmayer. SPI Canada also contributes a modest amount.
Birkenmayer said most EPIC members are also members of SPI Canada. EPIC's focus has been solid waste issues such as recycling. She said a new association likely would include programs on more environmental issues, such as emissions.
CPI's annual revenue is about C$1.3 million (US$949,000), estimated Andre Levesque, the group's director of operations. A federal grant due to expire in 1998 accounts for about a third of its funding. SPI Canada funding and fees for services represent most of its other income.
CPI gathers and disseminates technical information on a fee-for-service basis through seminars, consulting, publications and library searches.
It also hosts three federally sponsored technology consultants who are part of a network of industry consultants in the federal Industrial Research Assistance Program.
SPI Canada's former President Ron Evason played a big role in the separate creations of EPIC and CPI several years ago. He emphasized partnerships with government, and in the case of CPI, helped convince federal politicians to commit funds to the industry through CPI to help it upgrade its technology.
Dubois said a new association will work closely with governments, a strategy which should be easier when politicians talk to a single association representing the industry.
Government funding, however, is harder to get in these fiscally conservative times.