A new trade group, Mid-America Plastics Partners Inc., has ambitious plans for uniting processors throughout the Midwest to recruit workers, collectively buy health benefits, bring in new technology and market the region. ``The goal is to have a self-sustaining, financially viable organization,'' said Troy Nix, a leader of MAPP.
Formation of the Indianapolis-based group, which now numbers more 100 participants, including 60 from processor companies, comes as the major nationwide association, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., struggles to attract more processor members. SPI's board is considering whether to slash dues to processors - companies that mold, extrude and form plastic products - by 75 percent.
SPI's Midwest office is working with the new group. Leaders of both groups agree that MAPP's plan to sign up processors is not in direct competition with SPI, because SPI has relatively few processor members.
Nix said most MAPP members do not belong to SPI. Mid-America Plastics Partners recognizes SPI's strengths in governmental issues such as lobbying, said Nix, plastics industry manager for the Indiana Business Modernization and Technology Corp., a government/industry group.
``We don't do that and we don't want to do that. We do not want to duplicate for the members what already exists,'' he said.
BMTC put together a small plastics task force in early 1994. In late August, Mid-America Plastics Partners was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. Nix said the kickoff of the independent MAPP organization is scheduled for Jan. 1. So far, MAPP has drawn people from Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois, Nix said.
Bill Millholland, a machinery salesman in Carmel, Ind., said MAPP does not want to take members from either SPI or the Society of Plastics Engineers.
``What we're trying to do is take care of some regional needs that are otherwise not being met and strengthen the industry in our region,'' he said.
The potential ``region'' is huge. Of the top seven states in terms of plastics jobs, four are from the industrial Midwest, according to 1994 SPI data compiled by Probe Economics Inc. of Millwood, N.Y., and released earlier this year.
Susan Faurot, SPI's Midwest Regional manager in Chicago, said Nix visited her in late 1993, before the Indiana task force was created. Faurot said she shared information such as processor names, both SPI members and nonmembers.
Faurot has attended meetings of the Indiana group from the start. More recently, the American Plastics Council also has been represented at MAPP meetings. As previously reported, SPI and APC board members are talking about merging.
APC has a Midwest office in St. Paul, Minn.
SPI and APC are involved in another independent trade association being formed in Minnesota, tentatively called the Council of Plas-tics Leaders. In April, SPI an-nounced a formal alliance with an Akron, Ohio-based group, the Poly-mer Processors Association, since renamed the Plastics Pro-cessors Association of Ohio.
Of MAPP, Faurot said: ``I really don't see it as competition because I think that products and services that they are stepping forward to offer are things we [SPI] are not currently offering. It's just increasing the menu offerings to industry. It's good for the industry. Competition, if it should come to that, is also good for the industry.''
MAPP leaders created a financial plan and are trying to raise funds for the first two years of operation, with a small staff, Nix said. MAPP Treasurer Dan Smith said the group has about $8,000 so far. He is general manager of American Plastics Molding Corp., a custom molder in Scottsburg, Ind. The company has pledged to contribute money.
Smith said American Plastics Molding is not a member of SPI.
``I went to a couple of meetings in Indianapolis years ago,'' he said. ``I received a sales pitch on the subject, not an education, so it was of little value to me.''
MAPP leaders stressed that the group is a bottom-up group that is member-driven. In fact, Nix said, they do not even like it being called an ``association.'' Com-panies that join are ``partners.'' MAPP members do not pay membership dues, they make an ``investment.''
``It functions on an investment philosophy, not a dues philosophy,'' Nix said. ``Partners invest into MAPP Inc. and partners expect a return on that investment.''
The group has been meeting every five weeks.
MAPP activists say they have seen bottom-line benefits. One MAPP goal is to gather a group of at least 1,000 plastics employees to buy health-care benefits collectively. Smith said he thinks the firm will avoid a 50 percent hike in premiums.
``I expect to save a minimum of $60,000, up to $120,000,'' he said.
MAPP is well on its way to meeting its first goal of helping processors attract workers. MAPP created a MTV-style video and posters, now being tested in South Bend and Elkhart, Ind., schools.
Other initiatives include a program to buy pallets collectively. That saved one small shop $18,000, Nix said.
Nix's background is from industry. Before joining Indiana Bus-iness Modernization and Tech-nology Corp., he worked in Jacksonville, Ill., in blown film extrusion for Mobil Chemical Co.
SPI is based in Washington.
Statewide processor organizations have become a trend. The California Film Extruders and Converters Association in Corona del Mar, Calif., was a pioneer. Others include the PPA of Ohio; the Kentucky Alliance of Plastics Industries in Louisville; Berkshire Plastics Network in Pittsfield, Mass.; Merrimack Valley Plastics Network in North Andover, Mass.; and Connecticut Plastics Council in Middletown, Conn. Some groups are regional, not state-wide.
In Minnesota, where another group is being formed, the president of a blow molder is evaluating whether to pull out of SPI.
Jorg Freyer at Crosby Man-ufacturing Inc. in Riverton, Minn., said the company gets some sales by being listed in SPI's directory, but that's about it.
``From my perspective, the issue has to be evaluated in a cost-benefit sense and I'm trying to find the benefit of SPI membership other than being in the SPI register,'' Freyer said.