In a surprise move, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. has named machinery executive and longtime industry veteran Bill Carteaux to be its new president.
Carteaux, a top executive at injection press maker Demag Plastics Group, will take over for Don Duncan, who is retiring after five years as president of the Washington-based trade association.
In making the Jan. 6 announcement, SPI said its members overwhelmingly want a leader with plastics background, instead of a political figure.
While the group stuck to familiar waters in choosing someone from within, SPI directors praised Carteaux's international experience, his longtime work on various SPI projects and his experience with the NPE trade show, which is an important revenue source for SPI.
``It is becoming more and more of a global manufacturing environment,'' said Paul Appelblom, head of SPI's search committee and president of injection molder Jatco Inc. in Union City, Calif. ``To have someone who doesn't have that type of perspective, it would limit what SPI would be in the future.''
Carteaux played a key role in the creation of Demag Plastics Group as a single, global machinery maker, with plants in Strongsville, Ohio; Germany, India and China.
In a telephone interview from SPI headquarters, Carteaux said it was too soon to say what his goals will be for SPI, but said, ``Having lived through the last few years, I certainly have a perspective on what kind of things need to be changed.
``I believe we have to have a strong plastics industry in the United States,'' he said.
In a North American plastics machinery market that has shrunk by almost half since the late 1990s, Carteaux oversaw layoffs and the closing of an aftermarket parts facility in Strongsville and some machining operations in South Carolina.
At the same time, under Carteaux the firm won financing from the state of Ohio to help pay for $2 million worth of improvements at its Strongsville assembly factory.
He said his decision to take the job was not motivated by any events at DPG. He said he had not been looking for a job, but others encouraged him to apply for the SPI post. DPG has started a search for his replacement.
Carteaux was on the SPI executive board, and was set to take over Jan. 1 as vice chairman, a volunteer position. He has served on the Finance, Administration and Membership Committee, and was active on SPI's Committee on Machinery Statistics.
Other board members noted he's well-known in the industry.
``He's got a very broad industry view, and is an extremely good critical thinker,'' said Joe Bergen, president and chief executive officer of Sajar Plastics Inc. in Middlefield, Ohio, who has worked with Carteaux on SPI projects.
``He's got a quick mind that grasps the details and helps focus on what's important.''
Board member Martin Stark agreed. Stark, president of Bekum America Corp., said Carteaux has stepped forward to take on more responsibility, both at his company and SPI.
``He always brought a fresh approach to a problem from a different angle,'' Stark said.
Bergen said Carteaux put in a lot of work on the industry's machinery statistics program, and did some ``arm-twisting'' to get companies to supply good data.
Former SPI staffer Lori Anderson, who left last year to become president of the International Sign Association, said managing a trade association requires a consensus-building approach, different than what's needed to run a company.
``He will bring an energy level to it that will probably surprise people,'' Anderson said.
Carteaux does not bring a strong political background, but said he will be leaning on SPI's staff for help there.
The 45-year-old Carteaux will take over a trade group that is much smaller than it was five years ago, with its core budget dropping from $12 million to $8 million. The group was hurt by economic difficulties and by the fallout when members left after SPI failed to merge with the American Plastics Council.
Carteaux is to start March 1. He said he will relocate to Washington, rather than commuting, as Duncan, a former DuPont Co. executive, did on a weekly basis from his home in Delaware.
SPI officials declined to say how much Carteaux will be paid. In government filings last year, SPI said Duncan was paid $254,000 in 2002. That figure, however, covered only seven months, and SPI declined to elaborate.
Appelblom said SPI interviewed five candidates, all with some plastics industry connection.
SPI executive board member Gunther Hoyt said Carteaux brings valuable contacts in the global machinery industry.
``Bill has done a really good job of building bridges to Germany and Japan,'' said Hoyt, executive vice president of screw and barrel maker Xaloy Inc.
Carteaux is co-executive managing director of DPG, splitting the job with Helmar Franz, who works out of Schwaig, Germany. The company generated sales of 343.5 million euros ($407 million) in fiscal 2003, which ended Sept. 30.
Demag Plastics Group employs about 1,900 worldwide.
Before working at Demag, Carteaux headed Autojectors Inc., a maker of vertical injection presses, from 1991-98.
Senior reporter Bill Bregar contributed to this story.