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Each year the Society of Plastics Engineers organizes its ANTEC conference, as it did this week, and each of these events also marks the start of the new SPE president's one-year term. Tradition continued at this week's ANTEC, but new is that the president is not from North America, and almost as novel is the age of the gentleman who will succeed him at the next ANTEC. The changes are a marked change from the group's legacy of presdients who have been mostly U.S. citizens and mostly middle-aged or a fair bit older.

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New SPE president, president-elect mark changing face of the group

Each year the Society of Plastics Engineers organizes its ANTEC conference, as it did this week, and each of these events also marks the start of the new SPE president's one-year term. Tradition continued at this week's ANTEC, but new is that the president is not from North America, and almost as novel is the age of the gentleman who will succeed him at the next ANTEC. The changes are a marked change from the group's legacy of presdients who have been mostly U.S. citizens and mostly middle-aged or a fair bit older.

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Overeas and under 40: New SPE president Ken Braney (top) and president-elect Russell Broome.

The change makes good sense: membership in North America has been dropping or stalled for years even as the group adds to its rolls in other parts of the world. And while one younger president-elect will not a youth movement make, it is recognition that the plastics industry's pioneers are retired or soon will be, and a new generation is needed to take up their mantel and carry it forward.

The new SPE president, Ken Braney, lives in England, where he runs a thermoforming consultancy, and so is the first SPE president who has not been a resident of North America. Some past presidents have not been U.S. or Canadian citizens, but they spent their careers in North America and also climbed the SPE's ranks there. Braney long has been active in the organization but his start with it came in Europe, where he helped launch the group's European Thermoforming Division.

Braney's successor at the 2011 ANTEC event will be Russell Broome, employed as global business development manager for compounder and plastics supplier PolyOne Corp. Despite Broome's relatively young age (38), he has been an SPE member for 18 years, joining as a student after attending a meeting with his father. Two years after joining SPE, he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from North Carolina State University.

Braney takes the mantel from Paul Anderson, president of compounding extruder manufacturer Coperion Corp. Braney's been involved with the SPE European Thermoforming Division from its conception, holding the position of chairman for four years, and in 2005-2006 he was the chair of SPE Europe, responsible for registering SPE as a legal entity in Europe.

SPE's international footing gains speed in 2011 when the group for the first time will hold ANTEC-like events in Japan (in February 2011) and then in Europe in October 2011. An event in Europe had been planned for 2009 but eventually was cancelled due to the miserable economic situation, which had made a successful inaugural event extremely unlikely.

In his acceptance speech, Braney noted that the group is growing its membership globally, specifically citing "India, Europe, the Middle East, North and South America, and, of course, in the Asia-Pacific region." He also said he will work to create a "global alliance" with other organizations to help bring additional benefits to SPE members. —[email protected]

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