The recession forced the Society of Plastics Engineers Thermoforming Division to cancel its 2009 conference, but at the 2010 conference, leaders said the group is holding its own although challenges remain.
Our division is strong and solid. We have tightened our reins and survived this difficult time, said Ken Griep, chairman of the Thermoforming Division and vice president of Portage Casting and Mold Inc. in Portage, Wis.
Embrace the Challenge was the theme of the 19th annual Thermoforming Conference, held Sept. 19-20 in Milwaukee. It is an appropriate statement as the plastics industry struggled to come out of the sharp economic downturn. Griep said the Thermoforming Division's membership is 1,444 down from 2,075 in 2006.
The conference attracted 789 attendees. Ninety-one exhibitors displayed products and services in the accompanying trade show.
Membership in the Newtown, Conn.-based SPE was 14,500 at the end of 2009, down 9 percent from 2008 and about half the size of a decade ago. SPE President Ken Braney said the goal is to reach 20,000 members by November 2011.
We are on the way back up, said Braney said, managing director of Thermoforming Solutions Ltd. in Dartford, England. He said the strength of SPE events is the chance to share ideas face-to-face.
Meanwhile, one expert was conspicuously absent: Bill McConnell, a longtime Thermoforming Division activist, who died June 5. He was 88.
Griep called McConnell a true spokesman of our industry and a tireless promoter of thermoforming. He always pushed us to do more and he never allowed us to accept defeat, Griep said.