ALBANY, N.Y. — James Campbell couldn't find any decent examples of a plastics technician training program in New York, so the manufacturing manager for injection molder Chapin Manufacturing Inc. in Batavia, N.Y., designed his own.
Paul Hickey, president of Auburn Vacuum Forming Co. Inc. in Auburn, N.Y., thinks New York has made great strides in its business climate since Gov. George Pataki was elected in 1994. Thanks to state help and his firm's action, his worker compensation costs have dropped 15 percent and energy costs 25 percent.
Those were parts of the complex portrait of the plastics industry in New York that emerged from the state's first plastic summit, held March 3 in Albany.
About 140 industry executives, government officials and economic development experts gathered to trade ideas, lay the groundwork for another summit in a year or two, and try to form a statewide industry alliance. The summit was organized by the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., the American Plastics Council, the Society of Plastics Engineers and the state.
Some of the concerns were common to most state gatherings — finding and training workers, lowering energy costs and flexing some political muscle.
But the New York event also has a unique goal of reminding local manufacturers who are customers of the state's processors that they should look within the state for services, not elsewhere.
``We want to increase the business to New York firms that companies send to other states for whatever reason,'' said Michael Gianchetta, summit chairman and vice president of Gianco Ltd. in Amityville.
Employment in New York's plastics industry has increased 25 percent since 1991, but Gianchetta said it is hard for small manufacturers in the state to attract attention.
The state spends less than $1 million on business marketing, a fraction of the $20 million a year the state spends on tourism advertising, said David Bradley, acting director of Pataki's Office of Regulatory Reform. Pataki wants to increase its business marketing, he said.
New York's government is getting better, said Donald Dew, president of compression and injection molder Diemolding Corp. in Canastota, N.Y.
Diemolding is building a 40,000-square-foot compression molding plant in Wampsville, N.Y., after looking seriously at locations in Tennessee and South Carolina.
New York gave an attractive incentive package, and Diemolding found that labor relations in the South were no better, he said. Five years ago, the company probably would have built outside New York, he said.
Pataki's administration has reduced workers compensation costs 37 percent and unemployment insurance 33 percent, and it will kick off energy deregulation in 2001, state officials said. New York also made Site Selection magazine's list of top 10 expansion sites in 1998, with 13 times the number of new plants and expansions in 1994, state officials said.
The state also is spending $60,000 to fund an exhibit promoting New York plastics companies that will debut at next year's NPE, and it is spending $40,000 to help SPI develop study materials for its worker-certification program.
But New York should not get too self-congratulatory, said Charles Beck, president of Autech Plastics in Auburn. He said New York only ranks in the middle of states in job creation, after ranking dead last in the early 1990s.
``We are doing a little better but we are not beating the world,'' Beck said.
One topic that participants struggled with was worker training.
The state's training programs have ``pockets of wealth'' but are not always consistent, said Douglas Seward, executive director of the Rochester Tooling and Machining Association Inc.
An RTMA survey found its members turned away $25 million worth of work in 1997, largely because they could not find enough skilled labor.
A summit participant familiar with the New York Legislature said most industries, particularly plastics, don't make as much noise or get as much attention as very vocal consumer lobbies, such as rent control in New York City.
``I can't remember an issue about which we were lobbied that was specific to plastics,'' said the participant, who asked not to be identified. ``For an industry to get heard, you've got to be active, active, active.''