Founded on a noble prospect, the first Florida Plastics Summit brought a wide cross-section of plastics professionals to Orlando - but few of the lawmakers and government types so numerous at other state plastics conclaves. Some 200 attendees, about half of them manufacturers, heard seminars on work-force preparation, resource management, recycling advances and impending threats of government regulation.
Chief organizer Paul Fournier, vice president of Witt Plastics Inc. of Florida in Lakeland, compared the turnout to the 300 attending the Ohio Plastics Summit earlier this summer:
``This was pretty good, considering, too, that Ohio has five times [Florida's $3.8 billion] revenue from plastics,'' Fournier said.
Ohio Gov. George Voinovich, who also attended the K show in Dusseldorf, Germany, addressed the latest Ohio plastics summit.
Fournier should be saluted for bringing highly qualified industry professionals before the group to address critical issues, for getting sponsors interested and for bringing some processors together to network in an atmosphere never before possible in Florida.
But only one lawmaker, Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite, attended the gathering. She addressed the group not on plastics, but how well she gets along with plastics industry lobbyists. Brown-Waite, who chairs the senate's health-care committee, sang the praises of the American Plastics Council's contract lobbyist Fred McCormick, but offered no comment on the specifics or effectiveness of the plastics industry's legislative agenda in the state.
McCormick was a key figure in the industry's successful effort to overturn the nation's only advance disposal fee for plastic containers.
Brown-Waite, however, said little about how Florida combines a growing plastics manufacturing base with easy shipment to markets in Central and South America. She gave no indication that other lawmakers know.
A similar gathering of plastics industry principals in the legislative building across the street from Connecticut's state capital in Hartford in January attracted 18 members of the legislature.
Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles was invited to the summit, but he chose to attend 25th birthday celebrations for Disney World instead.
Florida's processors need to let their representatives realize how much of an emerging giant the plastics manufacturing and exporting business is. Let their next gathering be in Tallahassee.
Roger King is a Plastics News reporter based in Washington.