BETHESDA, Md.—The new president of the Adhesive and Sealant Council said he was drawn to the group because its member companies had many of the same needs as those in the association he previously worked for.
Matt Croson took over leadership of the ASC this past spring after spending 12 years with the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute, with his most recent position being vice president of member services. He helped the PMMI grow its membership by 30 percent, while maintaining a 98-percent retention rate.
While the PMMI is a larger group with more than 550 member companies —the ASC has about 110—both have pockets of manufacturers centered near large metropolitan areas. The PMMI has strongholds around Chicago, New York/New Jersey, Atlanta and Minnesota, with the ASC having major concentrations near Columbus, Ohio, and Minneapolis.
“It's good to see manufacturing alive and well,” said Croson.
Both groups, he said, are looking for continued membership growth and discovering different ways to engage potential customers to benefit the association and the industry. He's a strong believer that an association must mirror the industry it serves or risk becoming irrelevant.
To that end, the ASC will strive to engage the end customer community more than it has in the past. “If you always focus on what the customers' needs and wishes are, you create value to the organization by focusing on those needs,” Croson said. “Then, if you look in the mirror you will be representing what the industry is all about, and that's important for long-term success.”
One way the adhesives group will do that is by attending active trade shows with strong bases to create an “Adhesives Pavilion” at the events. It already has agreements in place for 1,000-sq.-ft. pavilions in 2011 at two shows—Composites 2011 in February in Florida and Expo-Pack Mexico in June.
That gives the ASC a chance to tout itself as a group, but member companies also will be able to have exhibit space to meet customers directly. “We can educate end users on the spot about what we do for those industry sectors,” he said.
Croson said he has had a good and active first six months on the job at ASC. The poor economy has impacted the industry, but also associations, making it a difficult time for finances and budgets.
But over the past 10 years, he said the ASC's programs and services have helped the association create a strong asset base. And now that the economy is showing signs of improving, the group can put those reserves to work to help develop future programs.
When he arrived on the job, Croson said the ASC was facing a deficit of as much as $150,000 for the year. Now, however, the projected shortfall is $50,000, and “if we do things right, we can break even.”
Croson breaks down the ASC's focus into three areas:
— external effort to help members sell and elevate the industry, and educate end users to understand the role of adhesives and sealants;
— internal initiatives to help members manage business data, including providing market information, end user needs assessments and benchmarking; and
— providing education and networking opportunities via its twice-a-year conventions and expos, along with other learning platforms such as webinars.
The dynamics of the association allow for some push and pull, with ideas welcome from both membership as well as ASC leadership. Being new, Croson said conversations are ongoing about his ideas and how they may play out with the ASC.
But being customer driven, the association has to be sensitive to what its members are facing. Currently, that means much volatility with regards to raw materials, including price increases, shortages and some force majeure declarations.
The ASC is assessing the raw material issue and deciding whether there is information it can develop and share with the industry on a regular basis, he said. “We always ask the question, 'Can ASC do something about it?' If we can, we have strong assets to be able to support our members.”
Big issue ahead
Regulatory reform is one area that the ASC will follow closely in the near future, according to Croson.
There has been some legislation introduced that would change the Toxic Substances Control Act, fundamentally altering the way chemicals are regulated, he said.
The TSCA is the only major environmental statute that has not been reauthorized since its original enactment in 1976 and, given that time frame, the ASC president said the group knows the act is long overdue for revision. But members want to make sure the changes are made using a science-based approach, don't stifle innovation, and don't have a negative impact on company sales and industry jobs, he said.
“We feel adhesives and sealants are very well tested,” Croson said. “They are managed using risk management principles. Our concern is (new legislation) would force all companies to put in some sort of new testing that will cost money.”
One provision that concerns the association would ask manufacturers to share formulation ingredients, bringing potential conflicts with patent protection. “With the provision, you have to put in the base formula—what's in it, but not the proportions,” he said. “It won't take scientists long to take the ingredients and come up with the product.”
The proposed changes to TSCA have not gone to committee so it's unlikely anything will happen this year, but it could be a prime legislative focus in 2011.
The ASC has a strong 110 members, but has lost a few, primarily because of the economy, Croson said. One of the main selling points to potential member companies is the ability to accomplish something as a collective that they couldn't do on their own—including making sure the industry's voice is heard on such issues as TSCA reform.
More effort also will be focused on getting the group and its members in front of the customer. One year from now, the ASC president expects to have new agreements in place with one or two organizations his group has never dealt with. Two to three new market studies also are on the horizon.
“I've enjoyed the conversations I've had with members,” Croson said. “I spent six weeks calling on members. There's a lot of optimism relative to the economy.”
He sees things as better than they were last year, and looks for more improvement in 2011.
“We're trying to put together an association that is dynamic, where things are happening, and people are willing to join and be a part of that,” he said. “Adhesives and sealants are critical pieces of every industrial segment. That's one of the key success factors, and we must make sure customers know where we sit and the value we add.”