SPI has begun to work more with other groups: It formed a partnership with major molder and mold maker Nypro Inc. to provide industrywide training, it brought the National Plastics Center under SPI's wing and it has developed plans to open offices in other countries to promote the products made by SPI's 1,100 members.
SPI recently met with delegates from India to discuss issues such as taxes, product bans and environmental repercussions that are affecting plastics manufacturers everywhere.
``The international piece is important because the attacks on plastics aren't just in America,'' Carteaux said. ``We are making sure that we reach out to other countries.''
With that in mind, SPI earlier this month agreed in principle to form a partnership - called the Global United Plastics Association - with the Plastics Export Promotion Council in India and the China Plastic Machine Industry Association to work on a number of issues.
Carteaux cautioned, however, that several details of the partnership still need to be worked out. The three groups tentatively have identified six key issues to be the core of GUPA's mission. Two of those issues are raising the demand for plastics consumption globally and addressing environmental issues linked to plastics manufacturing.
``[Carteaux] has made a point of reaching out to international and regional organizations in an effort to develop partnerships and coalitions for the industry,'' said Peter Jones, president of Wexco Corp. in Lynchburg, Va., and chairman of one of SPI's strategic management groups. ``He recognizes that you can't get everything done alone - that you have to work with other organizations in a coalition.''
In addition, Carteaux said he has worked to make SPI ``more relevant,'' by helping members tap into the association's database.
``SPI is an information warehouse. We have to transform that information into knowledge for our members,'' Carteaux said.
He also emphasized, as he has done relentlessly from day one, that everyone in the industry needs to speak in one voice with a single vision.
``The groups against us have a unified voice, so we have to have the same if we expect to make change. The worst thing that can happen is to have two different perspectives.''
That is why he has made it a priority to unite the industry. SPI had an acrimonious split with resin producers a few years back that led to creation of the American Plastics Council, which since has been folded into the American Chemistry Council and now is scheduled to become the plastics division of ACC in January.
``We would love to have those ... APC members as SPI members,'' Carteaux said. But, at the same time, he noted SPI already has 91 resin and material suppliers as member companies.
Carteaux added that he has talked to more than a dozen groups about alliances and mergers. ``I'd like to see some of the smaller groups join in with us. They shouldn't be concerned that they will get lost in SPI.''
With SPI in a more stable position than in the past, Carteaux is looking to the future.
``Donald Duncan [the previous SPI president] had done a tremendous job of stabilizing an organization that had split, but he didn't have the luxury of being proactive or focusing on the future,'' Carteaux said.
``He is a refreshing change from the leadership of the past,'' said Mike Lynch, director of government affairs for Illinois Tool Works Inc. of Glencoe, Ill. ``He brings an energy to the organization. ... He brings a let's get-it-done managerial style. He has done a lot of outreach and has visited each SPI business unit. He listens to everybody.''
While continuing to be engaged with all the issues, Carteaux is leaving day-to-day operations to Catherine Randazzo, executive vice president and chief operating officer. Randazzo is viewed by association members ``as a rock and a true believer in the organization, its mission and its members,'' according to an executive at one SPI member company.
``She is a detail-oriented person and we complement each other,'' Carteaux said.
Looking ahead, Carteaux said SPI has to ``continue to stay out in front of the issues, continue to improve our visibility and continue to make sure the voice of the plastics industry is heard.''
He said membership gains the past 19 months are positive steps and critical to improving SPI's management depth and its influence on Capitol Hill.
In 2005, SPI had its second-best yearly membership gain in more than a decade and formed the Bio-Process Systems Alliance - a group of 26 companies that manufacture and use biotech/pharmaceutical single-use products. Many of the membership gains were on the processor side. SPI has added more than 120 members since Carteaux took over March 1, 2005.
At the same time, Carteaux is working to get members more involved in setting the agenda for SPI.
SPI's board meeting in early October, at his urging, included member dialogue - and not just presentations - for the first time.
``We need to get members more energized and more involved so they can help drive the issues,'' said Carteaux. ``I have challenged them and the board, and brought a lot of issues to the forefront so they can shape our strategy going forward.''
Part of the equation also involves providing more services that in turn will influence more companies to join SPI and get more members involved.
And that, in turn, will allow SPI to be more active, he said.
``As we get more members, it eliminates budget restrictions and it gives us the broader membership we need to have more influence on issues such as trade. We are putting in place a number of nondues revenue streams to give us the dollars to do more for our members. There is no lack of ideas within SPI about what we can do to help members.''
Carteaux gets plaudits from several sources connected to SPI and Washington circles for that determination to grow membership ranks. In the words of one: ``You can never be complacent about membership and you can never be complacent about your relationships with the various levels of government. A lot of association executives focus on one and forget the other, but he has stayed focused on both.''
Jones added, ``Bill understands that you can build a more successful SPI if you involve people and that you can get more things done with the assistance of membership. He sets the example by getting personally involved and understands that it is important to grow the industry to grow SPI.''
Ultimately, said Carteaux, helping the industry grow in the United States remains at the heart of nearly every new initiative.
``This industry is alive and well in the U.S.,'' said Carteaux. He said the new-technology pavilion at NPE and the presence of plant-based resin manufacturers also indicate the strength of the plastics industry in the U.S.
``Our manufacturers have stepped up to the challenge of figuring out what we should be making in this country,'' said Carteaux. ``Our new technology pavilion [at NPE] in 2009 will be something special to show the rest of the world: This is where technology is coming from.''
Carteaux's effort to make SPI more visible has breathed new life into the association. But it also has made him more visible and left some concerned that he plans to turn that visibility into a run for political office. However, Carteaux quashed those concerns in convincing fashion.
``Hell, no,'' he said, breaking into a hearty laugh when asked if he was planning to enter politics. ``You can take that to the bank. There is no way I'd subject my family to that. I love what I'm doing and I love advocating the industry and I can do what I'm doing because I'm passionate about the industry.''