On behalf of the Plastics Institute of America and our members of the board of trustees, we offer this as an open letter to all professionals in the plastics industry, and their respective associations. Our goal is to offer possible solutions and alternatives to certain shortfalls continuing in the plastics industry.
While various segments of the plastics industry are coming back, several are not. Among them are:
* The nearly 100 trade support and professional associations that serve the plastics market.
* Overall manufacturing here in America.
While reasons for this may be obvious to some, belt-tightening and overseas competition can be counted as causative agents, among others — some of us not only see some possible solutions to these situations, but also new ways of approaching the challenges that face us as a group.
Recent discussions with several other trade associations had us discuss our mutual growth and prosperity, not just of our respective organizations, but also the plastics industry as a whole.
Here's what we concluded:
* There is a fair bit of duplication of effort amongst the various organizations, with lots of overlap for similar products/services. Money and dues allocation are major issues, and it is little wonder that there is confusion, apathy, and questions about where the money or support goes.
* Much of the business going overseas doesn't have to. But each company, each association and each organization sends out mixed signals that confuse matters. A more cohesive voice would lead to better messages going out to influential people about the benefits of staying stateside and the plastics industry as a whole.
So, what are our proposed solutions and alternatives? For starters, how about establishing a central clearing house (such as the nonpartisan National Plastics Center, one of the organizations with whom we spoke — they are considering setting themselves up as a “Cooperative Alliance Center”). That way, all the respective trade associations and organizations would have a centralized point of contact that would start to clarify the clutter that exists out there now. And of course for manufacturers, the centralized approach would nurture new contacts and also serve to solidify a unified front and “bully pulpit” to disseminate a strong message about North American manufacturing.
We hear talks are under way among some of the larger organizations and associations. But it's those industry professionals and those smaller, and struggling, plastics industry associations that are considering this new approach.
If we are to survive, much less grow and prosper, unity is the key. By combining talents and messages, from marketing to membership to customer retention, we can all benefit. Note we are not seeking to consolidate or in any way control the resources, independence or finances of any group or organization. Each association and business alike can bring its experts and messages to bear to share their experiences, talents and approaches for the good of the industry we serve.
We are hoping that the voice of our industry — Plastics News — shares this enthusiasm as well as this premise with us and reports on its progress. Together, we invite ideas, thoughts, alternatives, criticisms, and naturally your support. We offer you a place, a resource, to begin the next great phase for the continued growth and prosperity of the North American plastics industry.
To conclude, we put out a call to all private company leaders from the resin, machinery, auxiliary and other support sectors to urge the respective organizations to which they belong — large, small, national, international and regional — to contact either of us to move this movement forward.
Aldo Crugnola is executive director of the Plastics Institute of America Inc., based in Lowell, Mass. PIA Chairman Martin Pottle also is president of Martin Thomas Inc., a marketing communications firm in Barrington, R.I.