WASHINGTON — Stung by consolidation in the packaging industry and stagnant revenues, the Flexible Packaging Association has laid off employees, eliminated or restructured several departments and embarked on a campaign to boost membership.
The small Washington-based trade group eliminated three positions from its 18-person staff in February, including its top lobbyist, its director of membership and its in-house meeting planner.
The layoffs came after the FPA lost its bid last year to add the Plastic Bag Association to its ranks. PBA decided instead to affiliate with the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. because it said FPA's dues were too high.
FPA officials said their dues are not too high, and said the association has added some new members, even as its revenues have stagnated.
``It is very difficult to accrue revenue when an industry is consolidating,'' said Jeffrey Lammers, FPA chairman and vice president of converter and PE film extruder Duralam Inc. in Appleton, Wis. ``The mergers have stagnated revenues somewhat.''
FPA President Glenn Braswell said the restructuring will save the association close to $200,000 a year, and a decision in late 1998 to stop training workshops for teachers will save it another $100,000 annually.
Lammers said the group hopes some other moves will boost its bottom line.
Striking a deal with a new trade magazine, Flexible Packaging News in St. Charles, Ill., to print FPA news and share some of the magazine's advertising revenue with FPA, Lammers said. FPA will no longer publish its own magazine.
Taking money the association previously spent to convince customers to buy more flexible packaging, and focusing that instead on a membership recruitment and retention campaign, Lammers said. Details have yet to be worked out, he added.
``We are not the size of an [American Plastics Council] who can carry on consumer ads on TV,'' Braswell said. ``We have redirected ourselves to marketing the association to the industry.''
The laid off employees were Elaine Talbott, the membership director; Rick Thornburgh, who was FPA's long-time director of government relations; and Judi Rosenberg, FPA's meeting planner.
Talbott was hired in late 1998, but prior to that the member companies performed those duties. The group decided member companies could resume that function, Lammers said.
The group has fewer big meetings, and it found that while its lobbying efforts were once critical, there was very little left in the political and legislative arena that directly affected the members, Lammers said. ``We haven't had anything going on in the past several years.''
Lammers said FPA's regulatory work, however, has picked up in areas like printing standards and coating standards.
FPA officials declined to provide financial details, but a review of some financial information the group is required to file with the Internal Revenue Service showed its revenues were flat in 1997, the last year figures are available.
Membership dues and assessments in 1997 were $2.05 million, down from $2.07 million in 1996. The association's total revenue was $2.53 million in 1997, a slight increase from $2.48 million the year earlier, the IRS figures show.