Standing up to peer pressure and not doing something can be very difficult.
Owens Corning should be commended for the strong stand it took when it decided not to exhibit at the International Composites Exhibition '98, held last month in Nashville, Tenn.
The no-show decision may end up being a major step in a process now under way that could unite the various national composites trade groups.
Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning is a big name in the composites industry, and you could argue that the company can afford to skip a show like ICE '98. After all, no one is going to forget about a player like Owens Corning just because the firm didn't buy booth space.
But Owens Corning wanted to make a point: There is no need for both the New York-based Composites Institute and the Arlington, Va.-based Composites Fabricators Association to hold big, annual trade fairs.
No doubt that decision helped spur CFA and CI to agree to hold a joint show starting in the year 2000. ICE '98 exhibitors interviewed by Plastics News were very enthusiastic about supporting a single trade show.
Discussions now are under way on what could be a natural second step in the process: for the associations to merge or otherwise form an alliance that would help the industry speak with a single, stronger voice.
Doing so would not be easy.
In addition to the Composites Institute and CFA, other groups with a stake in the industry include the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering, the International Cast Polymer Association, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
These groups all formed with specific agendas and disparate membership bases, and combining them would require the umbrella group to convince everyone involved that the need to speak on behalf of the greater good should be foremost. That's easier said than done, particularly when there are historical rivalries and leadership issues to resolve.
Many issues remain.
For example, should the combined composites groups be under the umbrella of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., or should the Composites Institute seek independence from its Washington-based parent association?
If CI does not succeed in merging with CFA and the other composites groups, then a split with SPI doesn't really add value to CFA members. Instead, it would only dilute the industry's voice further.
The composites industry has carved out a distinct niche within the plastics industry. CI members themselves should decide whether they should pursue a separate path. But we still are inclined to believe that the industry is better served by keeping close ties to SPI.
Meanwhile, on the more pressing issue of whether composites groups should form an alliance: The groups' members surely will be cautious, but they should push forward.