“Managing for Recovery” was the theme of the 2010 Plastics News Executive Forum, and it was certainly appropriate, after the economic body-slam the plastics industry has gone through from late 2008 right through last year.
This year's forum was fairly upbeat. Executives from several processors said they are seeing business pick up.
On the final morning of the Executive Forum, top officials from the finalists for our Processor of the Year Award answered audience questions. It's called Breakfast with the Stars.
A simple but great question came from Terry Minnick, president of Molding Business Services, a firm that puts together deals for small and midsized companies. Minnick owned Pro Corp., a custom injection molder in Massachusetts, selling it in 1994.
Minnick asked: Are you optimistic about plastics processing over the next five or 10 years?
The answers are encouraging:
Brenan Riehl, president and CEO of GW Plastics Inc., which was crowned the award winner in Tampa.
“I'm personally very optimistic. I think the field is being culled and everyone here in this room obviously is a survivor, and has a good company and a good business model. ... I think we all have good value propositions and as long as we stay focused and passionate about our business, and grow in the right way — which is to say, at least at GW we don't put growth before profitability. It's important to make money in this business. And so it's all about balance. But, based on what we see in our world, and the markets that we participate in, and the customers that we have, I see optimism.”
Philip Katen, president and general manager of Plastikos Inc.
“Absolutely, optimistic for what the future holds. There are opportunities everywhere. We have exciting new materials coming out, and a transition of new and innovative products being designed across a range of industries.”
William H. Wilson, CEO of Montrose Molders Corp.
“Yes, I'm extremely optimistic. We've got a great foundation, deep roots. Over the last six months we've been able to add a few great customers that are growing rapidly and I'm just excited to be part of their plans. I see a bright future for us. Of course I'm concerned about resin, but it's going to fluctuate where it goes, and we're just going to be quick to react as far as inventories.”
Katen said something I hope never goes out of style: “One of the soft factors that America and U.S.-based manufacturers have going for us is that can-do attitude, that entrepreneurial spirit.”
Amen brother! After losing work to China, after the Great Recession, after all the things that have beaten down U.S. manufacturing, the old style of rote American business optimism is gone. But there's plenty of room for “realistic optimism” — and it was on display in spades at our Executive Forum in Tampa.
Bregar is an Akron, Ohio-based Plastics News senior reporter.