Red Cavaney's officially announced departure as president of the American Plastics Council to head the larger, Washington-based American Petroleum Institute can best be described as an anticlimactic event. Cavaney, who joined APC in 1994, has had leaving on his mind for most of this year.
In March, the well-regarded association executive was among those considered for the presidency of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Since then, speculation about APC's president centered on when, not if, he would leave. APC's restructuring and concomitant budget cut, from $60 million to $38 million, and the failed merger talks with the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., ensured Cavaney's departure would be sooner rather than later.
That said, the departure of the former White House aide in the Nixon and Ford administrations leaves APC with yet another challenge: selecting a new president for an organization with an uncertain future. The collapse of merger talks with SPI over which group would have the dominant industry voice means APC will remain autonomous for the near term. At a later date, the discussions probably will be resurrected, but that is not expected to happen for several years, according to industry sources.
In the interim, APC is getting no small amount of guidance from its member resin suppliers regarding the manner of person they want to head their trade association. It's plain that whoever is selected will need the refined skills of a diplomat.
Whoever is selected has the challenge of improving relations between resin suppliers, processors and plastics equipment manufacturers. The groups are interdependent and it is to their advantage to work together closely — both within APC and through SPI.
While the interests and needs of APC and SPI members don't always converge, the larger industry good has to remain paramount. That means effective interassociation communication is a priority for the two groups.
APC's next president should be expected to work in sync with SPI, to share resources beyond what now is done in government affairs and to build on the public image work Cavaney sponsored. Candidates need to keep in mind that significant interest remains in a merger between the two groups.
Good unions have been built on less.