SPI has value despite membership decline
Difficult transitions can be tough, as suggested by some of the comments attributed to Lewis Freeman, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s former chief federal lobbyist (``Former SPI lobbyist says group is eroding,'' Page 18, May 14), following the reductions in his role and responsibility and, ultimately, his loss of tenure at SPI.
Writing as one whose own 30 years in one place were perhaps too many, too long, it appears Lew's 21 years in one place piqued some comments from him that befit neither a proper departure nor an effective organization, especially if taken in the vacuum of one article's attributions.
Lew cites an ``alarming decline in the number of processor'' members as proof that SPI has lost its leadership role as primary industry representative. That decline, to whatever extent it exists, did not result from a single cause or from numerous unknown reasons, both external and internal to SPI. There are many factors:
Angry, emotional resignations by some companies due to, one hopes, the final APC/SPI acrimonious divorce.
The industry itself continues to suffer from increasing consolidation and corporate reorganization - with or without liquidation.
Both growing foreign competition and domestic plant ownership reduce the sense of joining.
Ever-increasing environmental and cradle-to-grave ``material stewardship'' pressures have tapped significant company resources.
Growing uncertainties about energy availability trends is affecting company growth projections, plans and budgeting.
Raw material economics run their regular chilling, meandering course.
Many processors have been forced to focus more on internal needs and individual survival and less on collective industry-issue involvement. Processors in the flexible film segment and many in the molded product industry segment either want to sell out and get out, or want to buy up and move up. Their concurrent objectives inevitably lead to a smaller number of companies that can renew or sign up with SPI.
And, some things just weren't going the best ways they should or could have within SPI, itself, as it was formerly staffed and managed. SPI's own reorganization, financially and structurally, mirrors the industry it serves. No one should expect otherwise, especially those on the inside. Many folks who intimately know have hoped for such changes for several years.
It's reassuring to see some start in several associations ``serving'' plastics and plastics-related member companies.
Is there an industry need for and an industry value from the SPI? Definitely, and they are increasingly coming to the fore.
Lew ought to consider being as introspective and honest with himself as others of us have been about ourselves after ``moving on'' for whatever the reasons we moved, regardless of our longevity and history with our former firm. For those of us who have been intimately familiar with his former firm, his departure offers both himself and SPI the chance to do individually better in the future.
George A. Makrauer
Treasure Island, Fla.