(June 15, 4:45 p.m. EDT) — I just finished reading your editorial “Some SPI units must retool their approach” [Grace Notes, May 7, Page 6]. I must tell you, as a first time attendee at this year's Alliance of Plastics Processors show in Memphis, Tenn., I was surprised at the lack of attendance and corporate participation. As you point out, there seems to be a theme in the plastics industry regarding the lack of a collective focus from the industry's leaders to band together to educate and/or promote plastics — especially here in the U.S.
From my readings and experience, it is understandable that other countries — China, India, and even Mexico — have less need to educate their general population about the benefits of plastics, or to band together to promote the industry. In my opinion, this is because business and government there have more control as to what the public sees and hears. In those countries, where just a few years ago the general public was just grateful for a job so they could feed their families, industry and government is committed to change to meet goals.
Contrast that to here in the U.S., where industry leaders are battling loss of work to other countries, a slowing manufacturing economy, a growing trade deficit, and political activist groups who are more worried about getting their pictures published, raising money for their cause, and placing unrealistic restrictive barriers on U.S. manufacturers. It is no wonder the industry is in a scramble — it's every man (or business) for himself.
Yes, a stronger collaborative effort by companies and organizations like the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. is needed to enhance the impression of plastics in the public. Their focus needs to be encouraging education at all levels to secure a skilled work force for later years and further developing technological advances for the future of our industry. Organizations can and should be at the helm of such a movement to enhance the entire industry, not just one section of it or just the bigger players.
I believe, though, that there is hope. With local leaders from all corners of the plastics community banging the drums for programs such as Wisconsin Plastics Cluster Initiative and Partnership for Innovation (University of Wisconsin at Madison), Bayer Corp.'s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education partnership, and Plastics News' ongoing industrial articles and harsh editorials, we are on our way to fight and win the battle before us.
With regards to SPI and Bill Carteaux's focus for its growth, here I am not as convinced. After all, per SPI mission statement it is supposed to “... be a world-class trade association representing the entire plastics industry in a way that promotes the development of the plastics industry and enhances the public's understanding of its contributions while meeting the needs of society and providing value to its members.”
Kind of hard for the average Joe, at a small to midsize manufacturing firm, to get involved in SPI, given its membership fee structure and focus primarily at the Washington level — but that is another discussion — sort of.
Victor C. Baez
Triangle Tool Corp.