WASHINGTON — Faced with less funding from a dues cut and the departure of some large dues-paying resin suppliers, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. adopted a tight budget at its May 20-21 meeting that holds spending steady.
But more changes could be in store in January, when a task force studying the group's organization is slated to recommend how to revamp core activities at the Washington-based trade group.
SPI's total spending is projected at about $30 million for the fiscal year beginning June 1, roughly flat from last year, said spokeswoman Jennifer Dills. The budget includes a $500,000 contingency fund, and earmarks about $11.6 million for central administration activities like government relations, communications, trade shows and membership.
SPI has been under pressure in the past year from four major resin companies that said they are leaving — Amoco Polymers, Exxon Chemical Co., Nova Chemicals Inc. and Solvay Polymers Inc. — and from the defection of leaders of its largest unit, the Composites Institute, who joined a rival organization, the Composites Fabricators Association.
SPI officials declined to outline how the group reduced spending, but Dills said no major programs were cut.
``You tighten the belt and find efficiencies. ... It's been an across-the-board cut,'' she said.
SPI officials declined to say how much they had to reduce spending, but they previously had estimated a dues cut could leave them as much as $1 million short. In addition, each major resin company could have paid annual dues of as much as $164,000.
But the group picked up some new members after it cut dues for processors, and some costs were shifted to SPI's business units, complicating the budget process, Dills said. The group added about 30 new members in the first four months of 1998, and its new membership sales program is slated to kick off later this year, SPI officials said.
``This is a very tight budget in anticipation that we will get less revenue,'' said SPI Chairman Harry Ussery, who also is president of Beacon Plastics Inc. in Greenville, S.C. But Ussery said the group has its largest reserve ever and is in the ``best financial shape of its history.''
Ussery, who had been vice chairman, was elevated to chairman without opposition in a meeting that observers said was quiet, in contrast to recent meetings that had focused on contentious merger talks with the American Plastics Council.
Ussery had figured prominently in those talks, heading a team of negotiators that ultimately was replaced after Ussery's team pushed for SPI President Larry Thomas to lead a combined group. Solvay's resignation letter reportedly said it was unhappy with SPI's leadership, which some observers interpreted to mean Ussery.
While board members said a merger was not discussed substantively, SPI's Machinery Division took the unusual step in April of repeating its support of a merger — provided that Thomas remains in charge and APC becomes a program of SPI.
The division members wanted to make their position known in case talks restart sooner than a planned two-year cooling-off period, said Walt Bishop, executive director of the division.