Jay L. Gardiner, the 1996-1997 Society of Plastics Engineers president, runs with a pretty fast crowd - he is director of emergency medical services for the Long Island town of Setauket, N.Y. Gardiner has to be quick on his feet at his plastics job as well. He is president of Gardiner Plastics Inc., a three-person resin broker in Port Jefferson, N.Y.
``We buy and sell thermoplastic resins, with an emphasis on service. Our target is the small and medium-sized processor,'' he said.
Becoming SPE president re-quires moving up, year after year, through the ranks of the executive committee of the 38,000-member association. It is a major commitment of time.
``For the last nine years, SPE has been my vacation,'' he said.
His one-year term as president of the 38,000-member SPE started at the group's Annual Technical Conference, held May 5-10 in Indianapolis. In a speech, Gar-diner stressed using SPE to meet people in the industry.
Interviewed after the show, Gardiner said the social aspect has more than compensated for the pressures of running a small business while leading SPE. His year as president will include some global travel, as Brookfield, Conn.-based SPE ex-pands internationally. Plans are not final, but his SPE work could take him to the Far East, India, Israel and England in the next year.
``Whatever business I might have lost by putting all this time into SPE, I think I got an equal amount back from the people I met in SPE. So the net effect would be a gain for the industry,'' he said.
He was named an at-large committee member after chairing the 1989 ANTEC in New York.
The affable New Yorker's people skills get a daily workout at Gardiner Plastics. He stresses personal contact with his customers, buying and selling a range of resin.
``They require short and long lead times, different deliveries and they need a supplier that can deliver service and consistency,'' Gardiner said. ``Most of my customers are my friends.''
Gardiner went into business for himself in 1992. Before that, he was a principal in an Amherst, N.Y., resin broker, Marsh Plastics Inc. Earlier management posts were at distributor Bamberger Polymers Inc. of Lake Success, N.Y., and at the Keasbey, N.J., office of hanger molder A&E Products Group, now a division of Carlisle Plastics Inc.
``I love the freedom of being an entrepreneur. It's magnificent,'' said Gardiner, 44. ``It gives me time for SPE, time for my family, and time for my other pursuit, which is emergency medicine.''
As EMS director, Gardiner oversees the Setauket squad, which makes 1,800 ambulance calls a year. He also teaches emergency medicine at Suffolk Community College.
Gardiner said he likes the challenge of quick thinking under pressure.
``I like helping people and working with people. But it doesn't have to be totally altruistic. You gain yourself, too,'' he said.