ATLANTA — Incoming SPE President Norman S. Behn said the Society of Plastics Engineers needs to boost activism where it counts the most — at the local section level.
``Through the years, most [SPE] sections in our society have seen a decline in their meeting attendance and are continually fighting a battle of getting members to serve on their boards of directors,'' said Behn, who became an SPE member in 1969 in the Delaware Valley Section, at the urging of his boss at DuPont Co. ``I got involved quickly and stayed that way,'' he said.
Behn, president of Alltech Sales Co. in Fort Wayne, Ind., outlined his goals for the coming year in a speech April 27 during Antec '98 in Atlanta.
Behn said there are no easy answers to the problem at the 36,000-member professional organization. He also said SPE needs to try harder to attract young members. SPE has a strong college-student membership, but many of them drop out of the society after they graduate and enter the work force, he said.
SPE is creating a new group called the Young Plastics Professionals Committee — the society's only new committee this year. Behn also said greater SPE use of the Internet could help draw young people.
Meanwhile, SPE leaders are revising the organization's long-range planning document, Leadership 2000, to make SPE more action-oriented as a major, worldwide provider of polymer education. SPE leaders are working on a draft document, tentatively called Leadership 2005.
Behn said SPE has to work hard to provide more and better services while holding the line on dues — or even lowering them.
``This ambitious objective can only be accomplished by finding new and improved ways to generate revenue. Our intent is to capitalize on the one commodity we have: our technical knowledge,'' Behn said.
``New programs and products utilizing this unique technical knowledge must be available to our members, and more importantly, marketed to customers who are not currently members.'' He noted these services must be sold ``at a fair and competitive price, and be of outstanding quality.''
SPE launched three technical journals in 1997: the Journal of Injection Molding Technology, the Journal of Applied Medical Polymers and Mechanics of Time Dependent Materials. Those were SPE's first new publications in the past 17 years.
SPE also kicked off its first Processors' Conference, in Columbus, Ohio, and is considering a new magazine focusing on practical information about manufacturing.
The Brookfield, Conn.-based organization also continued to expand worldwide at Antec by chartering two new sections in Brazil and South Korea.
Internally, SPE leaders are working to shorten the years-long commitment it takes to become an SPE president. Currently, it takes 11 years of service on the executive committee, moving up through the offices, to become president. Behn told audience members that greater time constraints make it harder today to make that kind of time investment.
Norman E. Fowler, who is stepping down as SPE president, called the move ``a bold step in removing the barriers to people participating in our governance.''
Other officers for 1998 named during Antec were:
President-elect, William A. Humphrey, president of R.C. Molding Inc. of Greer, S.C.
First vice president, James H. Brackeen, sales manager of Exxon Chemical Co. of Houston.
Second vice president, Terence J. Browitt, president and founder of Terinex International Ltd. of Quebec.
Treasurer, Claudius Feger of IBM Corp. in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
Secretary, Donna S. Davis of Exxon Chemical Co. of Baytown, Texas.