AKRON, OHIO (Oct. 14, 9 a.m. EDT) — North American resin executives are declining to use the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as an excuse for business difficulties they saw in 2001 and on into early 2002.
“By the second quarter [of 2002], we had returned to traditional buying and seasonality,” said Lance Altizer, global marketing director for Honeywell Plastics in Morristown, N.J. “Inventory was driven to new lows because of the general economy, not necessarily because of Sept. 11.”
“I'm not sure if Sept. 11 caused things to worsen in the fourth quarter or if events at larger companies like Enron had more of an effect on consumer confidence,” said Azita Owlia, consumer market vice president for Bayer Corp. in Pittsburgh. “We had already started to see a slowdown. There's no data to pinpoint it to Sept. 11.”
Officials at Bayer and GE Plastics of Pittsfield, Mass., said some customers have begun to purchase material more frequently, but in smaller amounts, since Sept. 11. But judging from comments made by other resin makers, that change may have transpired anyway.
“Sept. 11 significantly slowed the economy in the fourth quarter, but processors were already very inventory-conscious and were getting better information systems to manage their inventory,” said Barry Hendrix, a vice president with PVC maker Oxy Vinyls LP of Dallas. “Customers aren't waiting a month or two to change their orders once demand slows.”
Atofina Petrochemicals Inc.'s Mike Goins pointed out that, according to some data, the U.S. manufacturing economy already had been at recession levels for 18 months before Sept. 11.
“The economy was relatively weak to begin with,” said Goins, who serves as North American polyethylene product manager for Atofina in Houston. “But after Sept. 11 people got really conservative.”
The only lasting impact of Sept. 11 on the resin industry may have been in altering the industry's expectations.
“Prior to Sept. 11, most economists and people in our industry said there'd be strength in the end of 2001 and that 2002 would be a good year,” said Garret Davies, Global G-brand director for Kraton Polymers LLC of Houston. “Sept. 11 pushed that recovery back into the first quarter of '03, but it didn't cause any structural changes.”