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Washington, DC with Bill Carteaux

Facing challenges as well as brightening prospects, the latest to head the SPI will try to shepherd the U.S. plastics industry through an altered landscape.

Bill Carteaux, president, Society of the Plastics Industry, speaks.

"I really feel that the Society of the Plastics Industry is there to help this industry grow and become stronger

-to make sure that there continues to be U.S. plastics business and manufacturing for many years to come."

The previous statement by incoming SPI president Bill Carteaux, made days after accepting that position at America''s 68-year-old plastics trade association, may seem obvious, but for a group that some have accused of occasionally losing focus, it''s nothing if not reassuring.

Carteaux announced in January that he was stepping down as president and CEO of Demag Plastics Group, which he joined in 1999 as VP of sales and marketing. He takes over an association with which he has been continuously involved for the last 15 years. After former SPI head Donald Duncan announced his retirement, it was that experience, along with his drive, that had many envisioning Carteaux as the next SPI president.

"After [Duncan] retired," Carteaux says, "I had a number of people call me and say, ''This is the perfect job for you, Carteaux. Why don''t you do something about it?''" Now Carteaux does plan to do something, but exactly what that will be remained a work in progress, however, with a 100-day plan still in rough draft form.

With respect to the current political environment for plastics, which the SPI must keep tabs on, Carteaux says he and the group were heartened by the held-over White House, which has emphasized several causes-tort reform, energy legislation, business-friendly taxation-that SPI has lobbied for. In addition, Carteaux says he plans to speak with European and Asian associations to get a global sense of the issues facing plastics, and how different groups are contending with them.

When he does act on long-term issues, Carteaux says he will bring a perspective closely aligned with the processors that make up SPI''s membership, along with material and equipment suppliers.

"I think being close to the heartbeat of the industry, from a processing standpoint-being a machinery guy-I probably have a little bit better perspective of processing versus being a large resin guy that''s part of a chemical company."

That perspective can help SPI tap processors who may have a hard time seeing themselves in the organization. "Explaining the value to a processor of what SPI can do," Carteaux says, "and what they have done, I think is one of the things that gets missed sometimes."

Whatever work Carteaux does have,, he says it''s considerably less than it could have been if his predecessor, Duncan, hadn''t undertaken a near-total reorganization of the group after taking over in 1999 (August 2004 MP).

"[SPI] is as different as night and day," Carteaux says. "When [Duncan] was put in place, nobody cared, because everybody had lost faith in the association and what it was doing. Don coming in and cleaning things up made a significant impact in peoples'' awareness of the need for their trade association."

As Carteaux takes on the challenge of keeping SPI relevant to its members, he says he''s heartened by the positive response that''s filled his inbox. "In an hour yesterday," Carteaux says, "I had almost 50 e-mails, and a lot of those were, ''Loss to Demag, but, boy, it''s great for us, and we really appreciate what you''re doing.''"

Speaking to MPW on Friday, Jan. 28, Carteaux''s week saw him accept the position on Monday; give notice to Demag on Tuesday; speak to his staff Wednesday; and fly to Washington, DC Wednesday night for a Thursday morning breakfast with Duncan. Carteaux was reeling and beaming when he shared the wild four days with his son, Nick, that Thursday night. "I told my son, ''I hope in your life you have an opportunity in your career to experience a day like I had today.'' I mean, the support that I feel I have going into this.I am so humbled. It''s absolutely unbelievable."

Tony Deligio [email protected]

TAGS: Business
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