If you thought the feud between the American Plastics Council and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. was an irrelevant, inside-the-Beltway battle, here's something to ponder.
SPI has decided to kill its financial support for the SPI-APC joint state government affairs unit, after the two groups made a big deal about joining their local efforts at the hip back in 1997.
At the time, the groups said they needed to join forces because state and local governments are increasingly important to the plastics industry. That remains true today.
After all, many economic development agencies are targeting plastics as a clean, job-creating industry. Environmentalists upset with the poor shape of plastics recycling markets are targeting it for a different reason, and enjoy strong support in legislatures in states such as California. Endocrine and health issues remain a challenge for the industry.
The plastics industry is mobilizing itself into groups at the local level on bread-and-butter issues such as worker training and workers compensation.
There's a lot going on in the states. Anything that moves the industry's two largest trade groups apart and could interfere with their ability to get together in the trenches is alarming.
In fairness, both groups pledge to continue cooperating and minimize the impact of this decision, which was driven by SPI's recent cost-cutting efforts. But SPI's problems stem in part from the failed merger talks between the two groups and the loss of business units and resin companies to APC. Neither group can pretend relations between them are not very strained at the moment.
Financially, APC's state government effort can survive the split. SPI provided only about $200,000 of its $3 million budget.
And other regional efforts will continue. SPI's regional offices, which are not lobbying offices, will remain in place because they are funded elsewhere in SPI's budget.
So the two groups may be able to cooperate, as they say they plan to. We hope so, but given the way they conducted their merger talks, we're skeptical.
There's too much at stake for the industry if their now-separate local efforts cannot get along.