WILMINGTON, DEL. - Although the ``low fruit'' has been picked, Tom Gill still sees plenty on the tree, and he is planning to make DuPont Engineering Polymers-Americas grow three times faster than the national economy by picking it. Gill, business director for DuPont Engineering Polymers - Americas, is charged with running operations in the leading region of the world for one of DuPont's top business units.
``We have a strong commitment to live up to,'' Gill said in an interview June 6 at his Wilmington office. "Over the past 10 years, we grew at an average rate of 10 percent per year, and over the past five years, we grew at an average rate of 14-15 percent per year.
``In the next 10 years, we have to continue to grow at a rate of 21/2 to three times the rate of the gross domestic product.''
That performance would match the goal set out in January by DuPont President and Chief Executive Officer John A. Krol, who said he expects existing businesses to yield productivity improvements of 6 percent, while increasing sales by 8 percent and profit 10 percent a year.
DuPont Engineering Polymers expects to in-crease its worldwide sales and resin production volume by 50 percent by the year 2000, and expects to double it by the year 2005, Gill said. While he noted that DuPont Engineering Polymers reports sales of $2 billion worldwide, he would not say what contribution the Americas region makes.
To achieve those goals, Gill said the firm has to make formidable advances in three areas:
*Developing new markets.
*Adding new products.
*Developing business in the emerging economies of Mexico and South America.
In the first area, Gill noted, the easy pickings have been had.
The replacement of metals, thermoset plastics and other materials in the automotive and electrical and electronic industries has been going on for years, and growth of new uses for engineering thermoplastics seems to have reached a plateau.
However, Gill said he expects new applications in the automotive industry to increase 10-15 percent a year over the current 15 pounds of plastic used per vehicle, while increased demand for smaller components will provide gains in the electrical and electronics industries.
``There is no doubt about it. The next 20-30 percent of penetration into these markets will be harder to achieve, but it can be done,'' Gill said.
While DuPont sees imminent signs of growth in Mexico, Gill said, the company is placing itself in a position for growth in Brazil and Argentina. He noted that automakers from around the world announced they intend to invest nearly $15 billion in Brazil, which nearly will double Brazil's auto production, to 3.5 million vehicles a year.
Further, he said both countries - the leading economies for southern Latin America - are producing large and growing numbers of appliances, giving DuPont Engineering Polymers-Americas growth opportunities.
``We are developing new contributions for resins from a nylon 6/6 plant in Argentina, and will also have in place the capacity to make nylon 6.
``We will support those facilities locally, and we will import nylon and other resins from North America for several years to support the growth there,'' Gill said.
``The key will be how rapidly growth will occur, and how their economies will grow.''
Toward expanding the firm's product portfolio, Gill said capacity is being doubled at DuPont's Richmond, Va., nylon production facility. That will provide sufficient capacity for the next four years, he said, but DuPont then may consider a greenfield site to expand nylon production.
DuPont Engineering Polymers may add 90 million pounds of thermoplastic PET capacity by 1999. That expansion will include PBT production. The expansion will be at an existing facility, but a location will not be announced for several months, he said.
DuPont Engineering Polymers plans resin production expansions on a global basis, Gill said, adding that decisions on compounding resins are made regionally or domestically.