PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLA. (March 20, 3:30 p.m. EST) — A plastics consulting firm plans to launch an electronic-commerce trading site in early April with specific appeal to extruders.
Business Answers International Inc., a consulting and staffing firm based in Palm Beach Gardens, created a new company, Plastic Link Inc., with 10 employees to manage the launch.
The Web site, plasticlink.com, will begin hiring more people almost immediately, said Richard Rappaport, president of Business Answers.
Plastic Link initially plans to marry resin companies with processors of semifinished shapes. The Plastic Link target audience includes rod, tube, profile, filament and sheet extruders, as well as fabricators and thermoformers, Rappaport said.
Users will be able to buy and sell resin, as well as new or used equipment. The site also will offer a career center with job postings and resumes, industry news, market research reports and a "dot-com stock index," listing 30 leading market indicators and company stock-price updates.
Business Answers also plans to feature a sourcing guide for materials listed by market region.
Rappaport claims the trading site is the first to target the extrusion and thermoforming markets. He asserts that PlasticsNet.Com, another industry-specific e-marketplace, currently focuses largely on injection molders.
Other plastics trading players are expected to join the Web parade, Rappaport said.
"Together, (PlasticsNet and Plastic Link) offer a greater community of sites in the plastics industry," Rappaport said in a March 13 telephone interview. "We expect eventually to see more (sites), because the industry is wide open. We have intimate knowledge of plastics, and we expect to be one that succeeds."
Tim Stojka, PlasticsNet chairman and chief executive officer, said his site serves more than injection molders. But he said room exists for more than one plastics online trading company. Once more companies come on to the Web, PlasticsNet would like to partner with those sites offering different types of services, he said.
"We welcome additional models for the market," Stojka said. "With a network effect, maybe one or two systems can connect together and serve a larger critical mass of buyers and sellers. We can't do it all ourselves."
But Stojka, whose parent company, Chicago-based Commerx Inc., started developing the site in 1995, said it takes a long time to build a successful exchange.
"We tried a lot of different things to gain momentum," he said. "Some worked great and some did not work."
Plastic Link expects to have 100,000 members on its site sometime this year, said Rappaport, who also will serve as Plastic Link's chief executive officer. The company has not signed up outside investors from resin companies or processors but expects to form those partnerships, he said.
Business Answers took about a year to develop the site, Rappaport said.
"We started realizing that the next major wave beyond Y2K (issues) was e-commerce," he said. "We thought that some of the successes occurring in the consumer market could translate to the business-to-business world."