It's time for our annual Plastic Globe awards, as we reflect on the past year and salute those deserving parties who helped make 2001 unforgettable.
SACKED FOR A LOSS AWARD: To DaimlerChrysler Corp., for last-minute scheduling of a news conference at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29. Company officials alerted reporters by calling their homes Sunday night during halftime of the Super Bowl.
CHUTZPAH AWARD: To Brian O'Neill, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. O'Neill came to a Society of Plastics Engineers conference on plastics in automotive safety complete with crash-test footage in which he says the problem with one particular bumper was that it had only a “flimsy piece of plastic” for support. “I'm not against plastic,” he said in defense. “I'm against flimsy plastic.”
FREE TRADE STINKS AWARD: To the South Korean government, which in April agreed to buy 22.7 million pounds of garlic from China, at a cost of $5.7 million, to avert a Chinese ban on polyethylene resin and mobile telephones. The government hoped to persuade South Korea's PE producers to pay the cost of the garlic. Suppliers initially refused, but later agreed to negotiate.
RACK 'EM UP AWARD: To a Bea-vercreek, Ohio, man who in April was arrested for taking a 3-ton cooling rack for extruded profiles from his employer, ASC Exterior Technologies. The rack had an estimated value of $10,000. The worker salvaged the aluminum for $55. He had been laid off from his production job a month earlier.
ENVIRONMENTAL IRONY AWARD: To the environmentalists who sued Asbury Park, N.J., in March, to try to stop the city from rebuilding a historic promenade using hardwood from the Brazilian rain forest. Groups including the New Jersey Sierra Club wanted the city and state to use plastic lumber made from recycled feedstocks instead.
WHO REALLY NOSE? AWARD: To Britain's Fenn Street Promotions, which sued the organizers of the annual Comic Relief charity fund raiser in London in a row over squeaky plastic red noses. Fenn Street claims to have designed the famous red noses for Comic Relief in 1999, only to see the contract for 4.8 million copies go to another firm, Watermark Ltd. Comic Relief has raised more than £174 million for the poor in Africa and Britain since 1985.
LUDDITE WEBHEAD AWARD: To Kevin English, chief executive officer of Covisint, an automotive online marketplace. He was the only speaker at the 2001 University of Michigan Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., without a PowerPoint or computer-based graphic during his presentation. The side screens just featured a close-up of his face, kind of like Mick Jagger at a Rolling Stones arena concert.
WHAT'S IN A NAME AWARD: To Graham Machinery Group for its accumulator head called the GEC20DP7460S. Hey, when you've got a 20-pound shot size, you can call yourself anything you want.
TAKE ME OUT TO THE … OH, NEVER MIND AWARD: To industry veteran Larry Bos-si-dy, who kept himself busy in the first half of 2001 trying to get Pittsfield, Mass., to build an $18.5 million stadium for a minor-league baseball team. In July, Bossidy took a break from his baseball effort when he was called for a major pinch-hitting role — a return stint as chairman and chief executive officer of Honeywell Inc.
TWO WEEKS' NOTICE AWARD: To Janice Weninger, a third-shift worker at injection molder TecStar Manufacturing Co. in Germantown, Wis. Wenin-ger initially asked for a 30-day leave of absence when she learned she had a won $10.15 million jackpot in the Aug. 25 Megabucks lottery. After a bit more reflection, she decided to retire.
PRIME THE PUMP AWARD: To RJG Inc., a Traverse City, Mich., company that offers products and services to the injection molding industry. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, RJG's board handed out $100 bills to employees and told workers to go out and “spend money and therefore do their part to keep the economy strong. The only request made of employees was that they spend the money, soon, and ... buy American-made and local products.”
FUN WITH TRADEMARKS AWARD: To the Ladies Plastics Golf Organization, formerly the Ladies Plastics Golf Association. That was, until they got a letter from the Ladies Professional Golf Association, which apparently was not amused by the plastics group's adoption of the LPGA acronym. The Los Angeles-based plastics group holds a successful annual fund-raising tournament for breast cancer awareness efforts. The organization recently raised some $7,000.
ULTIMATE IMPLANT AWARD: To “Bobbing Bod,” a polystyrene creation by sculptor Jade Washington featured in the “Sculptures by the Sea” outdoor exhibition in Sydney, Australia. “Bod” was a larger-than-life depiction of a woman's head and bare breasts floating in the ocean — the exhibit was held in place by sand bags and anchors.
PURPLE RAIN AWARD: To the late John Nelson, father of pop music icon Prince. Nelson died in August at age 85. Although better known for his music career (and for his relationship with Prince as portrayed in the semi-autobiographical film Purple Rain), Nelson also had a plastics industry connection — he retired from Honeywell Inc., where had had worked as a plastics molder.
LONE RANGER AWARD: To Valerie A. Wilcox, who retired this year as the only executive director in the 10-year history of the National Plastics Center & Museum in Leominster, Mass. Always game for a challenge, the 65-year-old said she is going to try her hand at being a park ranger.
YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU AWARD: To Percy Ross, known for his syndicated newspaper column “Thanks a Million,” which gave away an estimated $30 million to readers who shared their hard-luck stories. Ross made his millions from Poly-Tech Corp., a plastic film and bag company that he bought in 1958 and sold for $8 million in 1969. After the sale, he split the money among family members, invested his $2 million share, and started the column in 1983. He wrote his last column in 1999, telling readers: “I've achieved my goal. I've given it all away.” Ross died Nov. 10 at his home in Edina, Minn.
GOOD TIME TO BUY A PRESS AWARD: To injection press makers who, saddled with inventory, are slashing prices. Want to attract a crowd? Announce that you want to buy an injection molding machine, and wait for the sales reps to break down your door.
HOW RUDE AWARD: To the former owners of HPM Corp., the venerable plastics processing and die-cast machinery maker, one of the largest employers in tiny Mount Gilead, Ohio. HPM has been a bedrock company in Mount Gilead since its founding in 1877. Last summer, when it looked as if the company was going to shut down, local government officials complained they could not get their calls returned. HPM leaders remained silent. Now Taylor's Industrial Services LLC is buying the assets and keeping the company in town. Let's hope Taylor's understands common courtesy.
SHAKE YOUR BOOTIE AWARD: To Jeffrey J. McKenzie, director of Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin in Los Angeles. Commenting on the slowing state of the economy in the wake of the terrorist attacks and recession, he noted that there were no initial public offerings in September. “The last time that happened was December 1975, when KC and the Sunshine Band had a hit record.”
SYNERGIES FROM HELL AWARD: To Mannesmann Plastics Machinery AG. Here's a short version of a long story: MPM's top executive, Wolfgang Vogl, kept insisting that Siemens AG sell all six MPM machinery firms together, citing their synergies. On a Friday, July 6, came the announcement that Apax Partners & Co. Ventures Ltd. bought MPM. Just two days later — on a Sunday — Swiss billionaire Christoph Blocher announced he was buying Netstal. No more synergy. No more Vogl, who quit a few weeks later. Then guess what? The whole deal fell apart. All six companies are together again: Krauss-Maffei, Van Dorn Demag, Netstal, Demag Ergotech, Berstorff and Billion.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO AWARD: To Bill McPhail, president of Montana-based blow molder Plasnetics USA Inc., for stealing more than $21,000 from a local Little League baseball group. He was arrested in July and pleaded guilty to avoid federal charges, and since has repaid the money, plus $10,000. The firm recently was evicted from its Salt Lake City plant for alleged late payment of rent. The firm must be low on funds again, now that it's the off-season for baseball.