Iowa's state plastics trade association is in some financial trouble and is looking to merge with another trade group or get some help from a partner to keep its mold-builder training and legislative efforts going.
"We don't have the base of companies to sustain us the way we'd like to be," said Flora Schmidt, executive director of the Iowa Plastics Industry Consortium in Manchester. "We're looking to create a strategic alliance with another agency."
The group will meet Feb. 2 with four potential partners: the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.; the Iowa Association of Business and Industry; Enterprise Iowa, an offshoot of the state economic development agency; and one of Iowa's community colleges, according to Hans Grob, chairman of the consortium.
Grob, who is president of Midwest Mold and Engineering Inc. in Pella, Iowa, said he is optimistic the training program will be managed by the college and that one of the other groups will manage the consortium's Plastics Days, which include business development seminars and legislative meetings.
The consortium hopes to announce the changes Feb. 13 at its next Plastics Day, in Des Moines, Iowa.
The state cut the group's funding for operations in 1999, and the consortium has been spending down savings and getting by on member dues and program fees since then, Schmidt said. Schmidt, who is the only full-time employee for the group, said the state also has cut back funding for the mold-builder apprentice training program, which streams video over telephone lines to conduct classes statewide.
Three years ago the state paid 75 percent of the cost of training, and companies 25 percent. But the state's share has been decreasing, and Schmidt said the state now pays 40 percent. Next year, companies probably will have to pay at least 85 percent of the program, which graduated its first class of 16 last summer. About 30 are enrolled in the four-year program, she said.
State officials could not be reached for comment.
Grob said some companies gave up on the training program and pulled their apprentices out of the program in its early days.
"My own personal opinion is that some of the companies that pulled out early didn't give it a chance," he said. "This is a first go around for us. Sure, there will be problems, and this is not going to be perfect."
The consortium has a budget of about $120,000, including training costs, and got about $35,000 a year from the state for operations before 1999, Schmidt said.