Together we find the solutions
by Craig Saunders
IAPD President

y the time you read this, it will be after the 65th Annual IAPD Convention and Deborah Ragsdale will be IAPD president. I look forward to serving the association as immediate past president. While I will remain involved, this is my last opportunity to address you directly in this magazine. [Editor’s Note: The October/November issue of the magazine will include a transcript of both the outgoing and incoming presidents’ speeches, so you will hear from both Craig and Deborah in the next issue.]

As this issue has a Women in Plastics theme, I wanted to commend all the volunteers who share their expertise on the following pages. Thank you to the authors and all who worked behind the scenes on this issue.

In my article in the June/July issue, I provided short updates about what the Education Committee, Environmental Committee, Women in Plastics Committee and the newly formed Recycling Task Force have been able to accomplish in 2020-2021. I’d like to continue with thanking the other volunteer groups who make such a difference for this association.

Your IAPD Board of Directors ensure that the Three Pillars strategy is guiding everything we do. Every board member serves as a board liaison to an IAPD committee, common interest group (CIG) or task force. The board is responsible for ensuring the financial health of the association. I applaud the board’s leadership during the pandemic and am happy to report that IAPD weathered this storm well. Kudos to the Nominating Committee for consistently finding the right talent to nominate to the open board positions.

The Government Relations Committee monitors legislation that could impact the industry, helps IAPD members educate Members of Congress about the difference between performance and consumer-grade plastics and works to help protect your businesses. The work of this committee is more important than ever, as there is a growing anti-plastics sentiment in Washington, D.C. The committee is making strides in educating legislators on the necessity of performance plastics to reach sustainability goals such as greater fuel efficiency in cars and more electric vehicles on the road. The committee is also working to include open competition in the infrastructure package that is making its way through Congress. This language is necessary because in some jurisdictions, performance plastics companies are not allowed to bid on federally funded projects. Studies have shown that when open competition is permitted, the average cost of materials is reduced by 30 percent, even if plastics are not selected. We have an excellent case to promote this significant savings in these projects and are working diligently to share this information with those who need to hear it.

So many IAPD members are struggling to hire people in jobs throughout their organizations, and I’m pleased to report that the Workforce Development Task Force is creating resources that you will be able to use in your recruitment. Plans are under way to have a video production crew visit IAPD member locations for filming and interviews. The videos will promote the industry, the careers available and show what modern distribution and manufacturing look like. The videos are just a beginning; additional tools will be created for you. The task force is now focused on how to attract the skilled trades and I look forward to seeing the outcome of their work.

I’ve noticed several characteristics common in the generations that are joining the workforce now. They are social and technologically savvy. They care deeply about the environment and are looking for employers who have a strong sustainability message. They also care about working for a company that not only has a diversity, equity and inclusion policy, but lives and practices it every day. They want to feel that they are part of the greater good, that the work they do goes beyond the four walls of your operation. To help connect this talent who are new to our industry, IAPD has launched the GenerationNext initiative, which is open to your employees who are up to 30 years old. The program is designed to give them education and support that will help them be successful and build the network that will be important to their career. I encourage you to share news about GenerationNext with these employees, as giving them that look at the IAPD community will help them realize the advantages of a career in performance plastics and, ideally, will help you achieve your employee retention goals.

The Marketing Committee has been doing great work, with expanding IAPD’s reach on social media and guiding the messaging on the videos that the Workforce Development Task Force is having produced. Look for the IAPD podcast to drop later this year, which will be a brand-new offering from this committee. I can’t wait to hear it.

The Scholarship Committee recently made some exciting changes that will be evident when the application period for the 2022 scholarships opens later this year. The committee looked at the majors that IAPD members typically hire for positions throughout their company, and decided that nonmember students in the following majors will be eligible for an IAPD scholarship: professional sales (major, minor or concentration), business, communications, marketing, engineering, supply chain management, information technology, accounting and human resources.

IAPD members and their children are also eligible for an IAPD scholarship, regardless of their degree program. The rationale behind opening the degree programs to the nonmember students is to help raise awareness of the performance plastics industry to these students and, hopefully, attract them to the industry upon graduation.

An association is only as strong as its membership base, and the Membership Committee vets the companies that apply for membership to ensure that they comply with all the requirements for IAPD membership as well as operate as good stewards of the supply chain. Thank you for everything you do to ensure that IAPD is on a growth trajectory with members who value distribution as the way to market.

Working collectively
When I took the stage at the 2019 Annual Convention, I spoke about how we can accomplish more when we work together as an association than if we were to try to do it on our own within our companies. After the past couple of years, where we’ve faced unprecedented challenges, I will echo that sentiment here. IAPD members worked hard throughout the pandemic. Now we’re working on today’s challenges. There will always be something, but together we can find solutions that will benefit us all.