WASHINGTON — Members of the Composites Institute narrowly voted to leave the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., opening the door to a fragmenting of SPI's largest business unit.
Balloting was completed March 6. CI's directors then decided March 11 to pull out of SPI, although they remained vague about their plans.
How many of CI's 404 members — one-fifth of SPI's 2,000 total member companies — will leave is unclear. SPI officials said about one-third of CI members voted, with a slight majority of those, about 17 percent of the division's total membership, voting to leave.
CI board Chairman Robert DeRoma, senior vice president of Interplastic Corp. in St. Paul, Minn., said an overwhelming majority of CI's 11 board members voted to leave, making him ``very, very confident that whatever course the board takes will be supported by a majority of the membership.''
``It's unclear what that course will be,'' DeRoma said. ``It will be a course outside of SPI.''
CI officials previously said that one reason they wanted to leave SPI was to make it easier to pursue a closer relationship with other composites trade groups, but DeRoma declined comment.
SPI President Larry Thomas criticized the board's decision in light of the low vote total in the poll of CI members.
``The poll results hardly constitute a mandate for such a step at a time when it is more important than ever for the composites industry to stand united in the face of increasing regulatory challenges,'' Thomas said.
The head of the 700-member Composites Fabricators Association said he can see both benefits and issues that would have to be worked out, if CI companies wanted to be part of CFA.
``I would be in favor if that were to come up, to at least have discussions,'' said Fred Dierks, president of CFA and vice president of manufacturing at Aqua Glass Corp. in Adamsville, Tenn.
He declined additional comment.
Dierks wrote in a Feb. 18 letter to Plastics News that there is value in separate composites trade groups, although Arlington, Va.-based CFA does not oppose more cooperation. Thomas has said other composites groups have been reluctant to talk about merging.
A Feb. 20 letter from CI's board said consolidating trade groups ``is at the heart of the board's request.''
SPI officials repeated earlier assertions that they will keep CI operating for those companies that remain. SPI added that a new CI board of directors will be named and that CI will be moved from New York to Washington. CI Executive Director Catherine Randazzo will remain as head of CI, but it is too early to talk about the financial impact or program changes, if any, said SPI spokeswoman Jennifer Dills.
DeRoma said CI's current board will have additional conference calls to work out details, and said Randazzo is a ``strong candidate'' to lead any new group.
``It's too premature to provide any real details,'' he said.
CI and SPI officials have waged an unusually public and bitter campaign in recent weeks about the future of the group, with CI officials maintaining that SPI is of ``questionable value.'' CI said an SPI restructuring left CI with a budget deficit of $500,000. DeRoma also said that ``what is good for the composites industry might not be good for the thermoplastic industry or its suppliers.''
SPI officials, for their part, said they would cushion the impact of that restructuring and said the deficit would be closer to $200,000. And, they said CI members asked for the dues cut that led to their deficit.
Talks broke down partially over control of dues income, with CI wanting to collect its own dues rather than depend on SPI to collect them and send money back to the division.