When I visit plastics processors, I try to always ask is what trade groups they're active in, and why. Leading companies tend to be involved in a lot of organizations, and they have specific things to say about why. What I learn is pretty revealing.
Plastics trade groups play a vital role in the industry, and most seem to be on strong footing these days, which is a sign of a healthy plastics industry.
One nice example has been the Society of Plastics Engineers, which a decade ago was faced with a major demographic problem: The core group of members was aging quickly, and SPE was having trouble recruiting new members.
But today, in many ways, SPE is a new organization. That's the result of a lot of strategizing and hard work by a lot of people. One key individual has been Russ Broome, who announced Aug. 8 that he's stepping down as SPE's managing director at the end of August.
SPE was faced with a common problem. I'll try not to overgeneralize too much, but basically old people liked coming to meetings and socializing, but young people did all their networking on social media. What's a trade association to do?
SPE rebuilt itself, keeping a lot of the traditions and successful events and groups that were working and trying new things. Broome gets a lot of credit, but he's certainly not alone.
"Russell's passion is clearly about supporting and educating the next generation of plastics professionals," SPE CEO Patrick Farrey said in a news release. "Through his role, he successfully established the Next Generation Advisory Board, a group that plans and sponsors activities which teach the next generation of plastics professionals practical life skills which allow them to be more successful both in their work and personal lives."
Appropriately enough for the millennials, the Next Generation Advisory Board responded to the news on Facebook: "Russ Broome has been a huge champion for NGAB over the years. There are no words that could sufficiently express the gratitude we all feel to have had this amazing leader in our lives."
It seems appropriate to me that Broome made his decision the same week that Plastics News published its annual industry Rising Stars special report. As usual, many of this year's young professionals who were featured are active in SPE, and one even called out Broome by name in her profile, for his work supporting a special breakfast for women at this year's Antec in Anaheim, Calif.
I've gone to Antec and seen 70- and 80-something Plastics Hall of Famers socializing with 20- and 30-something young professional engineers, and it's been just fantastic. There's a lot of mentoring going on. Broome encouraged that. I'm sure it will continue.