WASHINGTON — Two large resin companies — Amoco Polymers Inc. and Solvay Polymers Inc. — plan to pull out of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., yet another sign that the industry's trade organizations could be fragmenting.
Solvay raised unspecified concerns about the leadership of SPI in its resignation letter, while Amoco officials described their March 2 letter as a business decision to ``consolidate trade group resources.''
The pullout comes as leaders of SPI's largest unit, the Composites Institute, are threatening to leave, and a member of the closely related American Plastics Council — Fina Oil and Chemical Co. — said last month it will pull out of APC because it is angry that APC rejected SPI merger overtures.
Alpharetta, Ga.-based Amoco and Houston-based Solvay will take at least $200,000 in annual dues from SPI coffers, sources said, putting additional strain on the group's attempts to reduce its spending by as much as $1.5 million.
SPI officials said they will work to get both companies to reconsider before their decisions become final June 1.
Solvay officials could not be reached, but several sources said their letter raises vague concerns about SPI leadership.
Privately, officials speculate that resin maker Solvay's decision could be targeted at the incoming chairman-designate of SPI, Harry Ussery, or at current President Larry Thomas.
Ussery, who has strong connections to processor members of SPI, led the first SPI negotiating team during merger talks with APC. Those talks stalled partially because Ussery's team insisted that Thomas be in charge of any new organization. SPI subsequently selected a different team of negotiators.
Last month, SPI Chairman H. Patrick Jack, senior vice president of chemicals at Fina, said resin manufacturers have diverse opinions on whether Thomas is an effective leader, although he said he thought Thomas was a good president.
Ussery, president of injection molder Beacon Plastics Inc. in Greenville, S.C., said he hoped companies would not make decisions like this based on ``petty'' personal reasons, and said SPI leaders have a task force evaluating how the group functions.
``Obviously any resignation, especially of a large dues payer, requires us to revisit the budget,'' Ussery said. ``We don't consider SPI to be in crisis.
``There are a few members — I emphasize a few — that are questioning the value of SPI,'' he said. ``Long-term, we don't feel there is any diminishing of SPI's role as spokesman for the industry.''
Thomas and Jack could not be reached for comment.
APC President Ron Yocum said his group is not in a ``crisis mode,'' but said ``clearly the more fragmented you become, the more difficult it is to represent the industry.''
Business pressures and approaching downward cycles for the resin industry are causing every company to reconsider what trade associations it spends dues on, Yocum said.
Amoco spokesman Scott Dean said the company told SPI it simply is making a business decision to consolidate its trade group spending in organizations like APC and the Arlington, Va.-based Chemical Manufacturers Association. He said Amoco would prefer that one major trade association represent the plastics industry.
SPI's membership includes processors, and resin and machine makers, while APC is composed entirely of resin makers.
Ussery said SPI has 200-some resin company members, and has lost only one recently. Exxon Chemical Co. left SPI in August, saying SPI could not represent the resin industry.
``Does that mean we're not going to represent the resin supplier community?'' he said. ``No.''
But those three companies are major suppliers and pay a significant amount of dues to SPI.
SPI's officers plan a conference call Friday afternoon to talk about the CI situation, resin company departures and other matters, Ussery said.
Officials at the Styrene Information and Research Center, a unit of SPI, still are weighing how Amoco's departure from SPI will affect the group. Spokesman Jack Snyder said Amoco is a ``big part'' of the SIRC budget.