WASHINGTON — One day, Calvin Campbell is running a company that sells blow molding machines used to make polycarbonate bottles for office water coolers.
The next, he's walking the halls of Congress or being hustled off to a White House event on preparing corporate America to handle the Y2K computer bug.
Campbell, who goes by the nickname ``Tink,'' is the first small-business owner to head the National Association of Manufacturers in 50 years. He serves as chairman and chief public face of the Washington-based association, one of the country's high-profile business lobbying groups.
Meanwhile, Campbell also is chairman of Goodman Equipment Corp. in Bedford Park, Ill., the parent company of Improved Blow Molding Equipment Co. Inc.
NAM leaders traditionally manage thousands of employees and revenue streams in the billions of dollars, like the chairman of NAM's executive committee, Earnest Deavenport, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Eastman Chemical Co. Campbell sits on Eastman's board of directors.
Goodman, on the other hand, has 65 employees who make both blow molding equipment and machines for underground mining, like locomotives. Campbell bought Goodman in 1971, when all it made was underground mining machines.
But he had been exposed to plastics early — he worked for Exxon Chemical Co., then known as Enjay, in various marketing and manufacturing jobs in the 1960s. He spent a summer in college at Dow's styrene polymerization plant in Midland, Mich., and he has a degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He bought the Improved line of blow and injection molding machines from Ingersoll-Rand in 1979. (He sold off the injection business in 1986).
At first glance, his businesses seem an unusual combination. But both are capital equipment businesses, Campbell said.
``Capital equipment is very specialized,'' Campbell said. ``Heavy capital equipment lasts a long time, and it has an aftermarket service to it. The aftermarket service is very attractive.''
Goodman, by some estimates, has two-thirds of the market for machines that mold polycarbonate water bottles, and the company has built turnkey plants for customers around the world. Campbell can name 17 countries on five continents where Goodman-built bottle-making plants are running.
``This is one of the few products where the container is worth more than the product that goes into it,'' he said.
Goodman does not disclose sales, but its business is split about equally between blow molding and mining. It only does design and final assembly, subcontracting all the component manufacturing, Campbell said.
Campbell has been active in public organizations. He was chairman of the Illinois Manufacturers Association in 1994-95, the oldest and largest state manufacturing trade group, and has served as a director and regional chairman for NAM.
His one-year term as NAM chairman began in October. He was named to the post after NAM's then vice chairman, former AMP Inc. Chief Executive Officer William Hudson, was passed over for NAM chairman.
Traditionally, the NAM chairman is the head of a company. Hudson was removed from the top job at AMP last year during his company's hostile takeover fight with AlliedSignal.
Now, most of Campbell's time is spent promoting NAM's three priorities in a capital still digging out from impeachment battles: cutting all federal income tax rates; privatizing Social Security; and stopping government regulations the group considers burdensome, particularly patients' rights health care proposals.
The centerpiece of NAM's agenda in Washington is a 10 percent across-the-board cut in all federal income tax rates. The Republican leadership in Congress has since picked up the idea.
``The American worker is overtaxed,'' Campbell said. ``The average American worker pays one-third of his or her income in taxes.''
NAM expects U.S. economic growth to slow to 2 percent in 1999 because of worldwide financial troubles and declining domestic growth. A tax cut would keep the economy going, Campbell said.
Privatizing Social Security is the organization's second priority. NAM favors letting a substantial portion of Social Security payroll taxes be directed to individual retirement accounts, earning a higher rate of return. It also said it favors a tax-financed safety net of benefits.
The business group does not favor President Clinton's proposal to have the government invest some Social Security funds, fearing it would politicize the market.
``To have the government in the stock market — that is scary,'' Campbell said. ``I want to be kind by using the word scary.''
While those are NAM's goals, Campbell paused when asked what he expected from a capital dealing with elections and the fallout from the Clinton's impeachment battles.
``I can't really comment,'' he said. ``I come from Middle America — we're a bunch of little guys. We create jobs. We create prosperity.''