The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. has a new leader with plenty on his plate, lots of people to meet, and a variety of game plans to consider. SPI on Feb. 2 picked a new president: Donald K. Duncan, 58, the former president of DuPont Dow Elastomers LLC.
We suggest Duncan's first step be to meet with SPI members and enlist their help in the effort to rebuild the Washington-based trade group. Meantime, his long-term goal must be to mend fences with the American Plastics Council and put the groups back on track toward an eventual merger.
SPI has lost several hundred members in the past two years, and many people who care about its future have different prescriptions for its recovery.
Duncan probably will hear a hundred suggestions for changes at SPI. Some think the association should leave Washington and find headquarters closer to its plastics industry roots. Some suggest a merger with the Society of Plastics Engineers, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, or APC. Others believe SPI needs to sponsor a major trade show where processor companies could exhibit their capabilities.
SPI has tried to do many things in the past, but it has not done them all well. As president, Duncan will need to focus on making SPI a more effective association. That certainly will mean passing on some projects and knowing when to say no to ideas, whether they come from staffers or members.
Given his background in the industry, moving up the ranks at DuPont and then running a billion-dollar joint-venture company, we have no doubt that Duncan can handle that part of the job.
SPI today is a significantly different organization than it was two years ago. The Polyurethane Division, Vinyl Institute, Composites Institute, Polystyrene Packaging Council and Plastics Pipe Institute are gone. So are Dow Chemical Co., Mobil Chemical Co., Eastman Chemical Co., Huntsman Corp., and others — in all, a dozen major resin companies.
Still, the feeling of bleakness that seemed so strong a year ago is gone.Now SPI has a new president who seems well-qualified, without baggage from previous disputes, and prepared to head the 63-year-old voice of the plastics industry into the 21st century.