Al Damico, who was brought in less than a year ago with much fanfare to be executive vice president and the second-highest ranking official at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., is among 11 people that the association has let go as part of its downsizing and restructuring.
Also laid off were two of the three industry council vice presidents: Walt Bishop, a 24-year SPI veteran who was vice president of the equipment council and executive director of the machinery and mold makers divisions; and Susan Howe, vice president of the processors council.
Howe, who joined SPI in 1993, also was vice president of worker health and safety and executive director for the color and additive compounders unit as well as SPI's food, drug and cosmetic packaging materials committee.
SPI would not confirm the names of the 11 people let go, but the list was confirmed by several former employees of the Washington-based association. SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux said it was his policy not to discuss personnel issues.
The recent layoffs bring to 29 the number of people who have left SPI since Carteaux arrived in 2005. The association currently has 38 full-time employees.
There was no immediate indication who might head up the equipment council or the processors council now that Bishop and Howe have departed. Sources said there may have been an internal struggle over control of surplus funds estimated to be in the neighborhood of $200,000 each that those councils had at their disposal.
Under the new organizational structure, members can no longer allocate portions of their dues to specific business units, as they have been folded into the three councils. The councils will be able to propose budgets and agendas, but they must be approved by the executive board. Also, all public policy efforts, communications and marketing initiatives, and trade shows and conference work at SPI will be managed by those tactical units, not the councils.
The departure of Damico who was hired in August after a four-month search came as a surprise to many. The three councils and four regions of SPI had reported to Damico. He also chaired the communications and marketing advisory committee spearheading an Internet-based industry promotion campaign aimed at millennials that SPI plans to launch later this year.
At the time of Damico's hiring, Carteaux said his plastics industry background would be invaluable to SPI members. Damico previously was sales and marketing operations manager at Daikin America Inc. in Orangeburg, N.Y.
The others let go in the downsizing that took place July 9 were:
* Kevin Ott, executive director of both the bioprocess system alliance and the sheet producers division.
* Jennifer Goldman, assistant director for both fluoropolymers and vinyl products.
* Patti Gillespie, Midwest regional manager.
* Charles LaGrange, membership director.
* Tommy Southall, director of industry information and communications.
* Pam Rastatter, who was regional executive assistant for the southern region and manager of occupational safety statistics.
* Cassie Labissiere, database coordinator.
* Yvonne Smith, receptionist.
Most of the people eliminated were involved in member-oriented services, said one SPI member. They appear to focusing their resources on public policy, communications and marketing, and trade show programs and taking away the ability of specific groups within the association to address their special interests.
For his part, Carteaux called the changes an inevitable part of SPI's evolution.
The changes allow for cross-sharing of information and eliminate a number of redundancies. It creates a much more nimble organization. We want and need more involvement from members and we believe we are creating a structure to do that, he said.
The restructuring was hastened by discounts offered to NPE2009 exhibitors that, in effect, reduced SPI's operating budget by $3.2 million over the next three years. SPI is the organizer of the NPE trade show. But Carteaux said the changes were not a tactical cost-cutting measure.
We sat down and said that if we were starting with a clean sheet of paper, how would we organize ourselves to do what we need to do for members and for SPI? Carteaux said.
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