The National Plastics Center and Museum has kicked off its biggest fund-raising effort yet, a $5.7 million campaign it hopes will let it expand its Plastivan programs and give it a stronger financial cushion. The campaign would give the museum its fourth Plastivan, let it pay off $500,000 in debt and provide a healthy endowment to fund operations, said Jay Gardiner, a consultant to the fund-raising campaign and president of resin distributor and consulting firm Gardiner Plastics Inc. in Port Jefferson, N.Y.
About $1.2 million would go to improving exhibits at the museum, located in Leominster, Mass.
The museum has raised $2.5 million so far.
About $4 million will go into an endowment, generating about $280,000 a year, which is half of the museum's current operating costs, Gardiner said.
But the centerpiece would be getting a fourth Plastivan — a semitruck full of plastics information that is staffed by trained teachers and visits local schools.
By 2002, the museum wants to have each Plastivan focus on a particular region, and through more efficient scheduling and less long-distance travel by the vans, double the number of students who see them each year, Gardiner said.
Now, about 50,000 students see exhibits in one of three vans each year, but the museum wants to raise that number to 100,000 by 2002, Gardiner said.
"We are educating from the bottom up, K-12, focusing on junior high," Gardiner said. "This is to counteract junk science and open their eyes and ears to the potential to go into the plastics industry."
The museum has to find drivers for each van who also are educators, Gardiner said.
"Retaining teachers when they have to drive those types of distances is difficult," said Watts Humphrey, chairman of the Conair Group Inc. and chairman of the fund-raising campaign. More vans may make it easier to find good teachers because they would have to travel less, he said.
Besides expanding Plastivan, the museum wants to complete the Plastics Hall of Fame exhibit, an environmental gallery and exhibits on the history of plastics. The money also will be used to expand a plastic playground at the museum and update a science classroom.
But mainly, the money will make it easier for the museum to meet day-to-day expenses.
"It's not too dissimilar to a college or university, where it's easier to get money for bricks and mortar than for ongoing operations," said Ron Yocum, president of the American Plastics Council in Arlington, Va., and one of the fund-raisers for the museum. "They need some endowment ... so they can operate day to day without financial strain."
Yocum is handling fund raising for resin companies, while Humphrey is soliciting machinery companies.
Peter Bemis, executive vice president of injection molder Bemis Manufacturing Co. in Sheboygan Falls, Wis., is tapping processors.
Also participating in the fund-raising campaign are Robert Hoffer, president of Hoffer Plastics Corp. in Elgin, Ill., Gordon Lankton, president of Nypro Inc. in Clinton, Mass., and Peter Marshall, executive assistant to the president of Nypro.
Humphrey said the resin and machinery segments should meet their targets by midyear.
Processors could take a little longer because raising funds from that smaller and more diverse industry segment is tougher.