When Patty Long came to the industry seven years ago as the director of the Processors Council of the Plastics Industry Association, she said she loved the diversity of the members in the plastics industry, ranging from small, family-owned businesses to large corporations.
"And yet, when [the companies are] all together, the issues are common and the industry pride is palpable," said Long, 53, executive vice president of the association, a title she has had since December 2016. "There are always industry challenges, but working alongside such wonderful people is very rewarding."
Long said her greatest achievement has been fostering a greater coordination and collaboration within the association.
"I've always been more interested in playing team sports than individual sports, and those instincts definitely translate to work," she said. "When I first arrived at the Association, our individual Councils were operating independently — both from one another and from our advocacy efforts.
"Moving from staff lead of the Processors to overseeing the four Councils allowed much more teamwork within our group, and real cross-industry projects started cropping up. We added sustainability initiatives to our body of work and finally last year fully integrated Government Relations. Working so closely as part of a larger team is not only more rewarding; it also helps us provide much better service and outcomes for the members," Long added.
Prior to joining the organization, Long worked for the Asphalt Pavement Association, National Association of Manufacturers and Farley Industries Inc. She also served as a public relations consultant on President Ronald Reagan's Aviation Safety Commission in 1987-1988.
Long's current work issues are dealing with the "public perception about plastics and knee-jerk reactions to environmental challenges." There are so many opportunities and emerging technologies out there, she noted, such as mechanical and chemical recycling.
"There is such an amazing opportunity to completely change the terms of the debate as it relates to recovery and reuse of plastics," she said.
"I have met some of the smartest and most inquisitive people who work with plastics," she added. "They are problem-solvers who enjoy their jobs so much that some insist they can't believe they are being paid to do what they love. When I look at the societal challenges we face — things like global food shortages, homelessness and marine litter — I'm comforted in the belief that there are solutions and people who are working toward them every day."
Long said she considers Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, to be her mentor.
"I've learned so much from him, not just about the industry, but about juggling multiple responsibilities, empowering your staff and playing nice in the sandbox with your peers," she said. "These past two years — and Bill's battle with leukemia — has inspired me further. Bill has often said, 'You'd fight just as hard as I have, because you wouldn't have a choice.' That may be true, but I'm not sure I'd be able to fight with the grace and the dignity that he has."
Long said that in the last year and a half of being in her current title, she has had to step into some roles that were new or out of her comfort role.
"It's been pretty invigorating," she said. "It has certainly encouraged me to learn and to grow."