Norma S. Fox is on her way out as California Film Extruders & Converters Association executive director. But before she leaves, she has a few thoughts on the industry and trade group she represented for 15 years.
``The industry is in a fight for its life, and that is an understatement,'' Fox said.
``The environmentalists, the government bureaucrats [and] the legislative folks all want a piece of the plastic bag industry, which will be defeated if the industry doesn't show a united front,'' she said via e-mail.
She stressed, however, that CFECA ``is and has been on the right track'' with its initiatives, but the group needs more resources.
``The owners and [chief executive officers] of the [CFECA] manufacturing companies are hands-on and involved. The only problem is they don't have the resources to fund all that needs to be done,'' Fox said.
``CFECA could be even more powerful if it had the backing and money to do what needs to be accomplished.''
Kent Gates has been named to succeed Fox, whose last day is May 30. She will be honored June 10 at the association's meeting in Norwalk, Calif., according to President Catherine Browne, who is also general manager of Crown Poly Inc. in Huntington Park, Calif.
Fox is known at CFECA as the executive director who turned around its flagging membership and influence. Skip Nevell, the now-retired co-founder of Diamond Polyethylene Products Inc. in Los Angeles, met Fox during CFECA's search for a new director in 1993.
``The director at the time resigned abruptly and left the association rudderless,'' Nevell said.
``It was Norma's hard work in pursuing new members, identifying unifying causes and uniting the membership in advocating for mutually beneficial goals that has lifted CFECA from the essentially moribund condition that she inherited.
``At all times, Norma manifested genuine, personal concern for our industry and its problems,'' he said.
At that time, the group had 42 member companies, according to Nevell. Now, despite numerous mergers in the film and converting sector, CFECA has 79 member companies down from 132 in 2003.
Past CFECA President Robert Bateman pointed out Fox's role in extending the group's geographic reach up the West Coast as far as British Columbia and its scope launching programs like the Environmentally Preferred Rating system.
That program is the only environmental certification system for film and bags, ``and has industrywide potential,'' said Bateman, who is president of Roplast Industries Inc., of Oroville, Calif.
``Norma's enthusiasm and commitment have allowed CFECA to grow and flourish,'' Bateman said.
``She signed up at a time when the future of the organization was in doubt and built it up during a period when the number of film and bag companies in California was falling.''
In 1999 as CFECA president, Mitchell Greif presented Fox with the Leo Shluker Award, the group's highest honor.
``Norma Fox has been our MVP. If there was a Mount Rushmore of CFECA's leaders, Norma Fox's image would be there,'' said Greif, president of Coast Poly LLC of North Las Vegas, Nev.
George Makrauer, formerly an owner and chief executive officer of flexible packaging manufacturer Amko Plastics Inc. in Cincinnati, said he often butted heads with Fox.
``But nothing diverted Norma from working to represent and build CFECA by addressing critical issues that struck at her members' existence,'' said Makrauer, president of ComAd Management Group of Lady Lake, Fla.
Fox was born and raised in Bayonne, N.J. She received an associate's degree in applied science from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and she worked in the fashion industry for 10 years.
An employer relocated Fox to Southern California in 1983 and then ``went belly up after two years,'' she said. But Fox decided she and her young daughter would stay in California rather than return to the East Coast.
She worked sequentially for several California trade and real estate groups, in Los Angeles, Palos Verdes and Orange County, before launching her own association management business at age 50.
``I love doing this type of work,'' Fox said. ``It is very diverse, and you are not pigeon-holed into one area.
``I like having lots of balls in the air at one time.''
Fox Association Management Services Inc., based in Newport Beach, Calif., will continue working with three construction-related associations one national and two regional and a national professional group. CFECA was Fox's first client.
She estimated that removing CFECA from the mix should reduce her workload by about 25 percent.
As for her other plans, Fox said she intends to dote on grandson Reilly Evan MacMillan, who was born in January and lives with his parents in Pasadena, Calif.