WASHINGTON — The American Plastics Council and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. are restarting their on-again, off-again merger talks, a move that could combine the two largest industry trade groups.
Leaders of both groups are meeting Dec. 17 in Washington for what they are characterizing as ``exploratory'' talks to see if more serious discussions should be held.
It's the first time board members of the organizations have met to talk about merging since earlier talks broke down in November 1997.
That effort stalled in part because both groups said they wanted to focus on internal restructuring. They also were marred by the insistence of some SPI negotiators that SPI President Larry Thomas lead a combined group.
Leaders of both APC and SPI cautioned that these talks also could go nowhere.
``These are exploratory — [Thomas] and I don't know how this will turn out,'' APC President Ron Yocum said in a joint telephone interview Dec. 10 with Thomas. ``It could lead to great things, or it could be over by the 18th. ... It is so fragile.''
Both Thomas and Yocum said questions of who would lead any new organization or how much control any of the industry segments would have are undecided. APC is funded by resin suppliers, while SPI is funded by resin suppliers, equipment makers and processors.
The talks will be held with four board members from each group, none of whom had any key role in the last talks. Yocum and Thomas will not be in the room with the negotiators.
Thomas and Yocum have been meeting for most of this year to find ways the groups can work together, but Yocum said the agenda for the meeting is being set by the board members.
Thomas said restarting the talks is an outgrowth of the groups' reorganization efforts. SPI's board members seem likely to adopt a new structure in January that would put all of the group's central functions — like lobbying, communication and trade shows — under three strategy committees.
SPI's plan envisions that it would remain the ``single national trade association representing all segments of the industry.'' One of its proposed strategy committees has a mission that matches almost word for word APC's mission statement about making plastics a ``responsible choice in an environmentally conscious world.''
APC used to be part of SPI, but became independent in 1994.
SPI will be represented by Peter Bemis, executive vice president of Bemis Manufacturing Co. in Sheboygan Falls, Wis.; Jerry Lirette, president of D-M-E Co. in Madison Heights, Mich; Sid Rains, vice president of sales and marketing for Van Dorn Demag Corp. in Strongsville, Ohio; and Gordon Ross, president of ICI Americas Inc.'s Polyurethanes Division in West Deptford, N.J.
APC will be represented by Eugene Allspach, president and chief operating officer of Equistar Chemicals LP in Houston; James Harris, senior vice president of Exxon Chemical in Houston; Richard Sosville, vice president of engineering plastics at Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich.; and Steven Welch, vice president of the polymer business group of Amoco Chemical Co. in Alpharetta, Ga.