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Rubber Division program boosts membership

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Mesnac Co. Ltd. join Rubber Division Gilberto Gonzalez and Mike Evans
Photo by RPN photo by Don Detore Mesnac Co. Ltd. recently joined the ACS Rubber Division under the new corporate membership program. Gilberto Gonzalez (left), sales manager of the Latin American region, and Mike Evans, sales manager of the North America region, attended the Rubber Division's 185th Technical Meeting and Educational Symposium in Louisville, Ky.

AKRON—A seed that was planted a decade ago is bearing fruit today for the ACS Rubber Division.

The Corporate Membership program, which had been discussed sporadically in membership committee meetings for the last 10 years as another way for the organization to engage with the rubber industry, officially became a reality in January.

The response thus far has been strong. Nearly eight months later, the program has attracted 30 corporate members to the Rubber Division, covering nearly 375 employees.

“We had no idea this was going to blow up this much,” said Heather Maimone, membership manager at the Rubber Division. “From the very beginning, from the very moment (Marketing Manager) Gretchen (Cermak) sent out the marketing email, we've had companies signing on. I've been reaching out to different companies that I've had relationships with, and I've had a good response from those.”

The program features four tiers:

• Tier I includes up to 50 individual memberships and 12 hours of library research. Cost is $3,750, a savings of $1,540;

• Tier II includes up to 30 individual memberships and eight hours of library research. Cost is $2,500, a $710 savings;

• Tier III includes up to 20 individual memberships and six hours of library research. Cost is $1,750, a $420 savings; and

• Tier IV includes up 10 individual memberships and four hours of library research. Cost is $950, a savings of $180.

Other VIP perks of the program are equally as attractive, according to Maimone. For example, members can register at conferences at a members-only kiosk, instead of waiting in line; their company's logo is displayed on all the signage at each conference, as well as on daily show publications; members receive the use of a meeting room as well as freight-in, freight-out privileges as an exhibitor; and they receive information about upcoming conferences before the general public.

In addition, an on-site corporate training courses area is available for member organizations. The program can be tailored to the company's needs.

“One of the main challenges that I encountered in developing this program was finding a balance of the benefits that would be of great value to the corporate members while at the same time not offering something that was in conflict with other departments, like sponsorships, educational courses, expos,” Maimone said. “We didn't want to increase any costs that are associated with the benefits that we offer.”

The program didn't gain traction until Leonard Thomas, last year's chairman, helped to push the plan forward, starting in 2012.

“We were trying to get more visibility for the Rubber Division,” Thomas said. “We wanted to bring in more corporate members so they would know what value the Rubber Division could bring to them, especially those unfamiliar with what the Rubber Division can do.

“When I became chair, I made it one of my goals and objectives,” Thomas said.

Once the Steering Committee approved of its structure before the 2013 fall meeting, the Rubber Division began to market it slowly, beginning at the International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland last October.

“It really was Leonard spearheading this to be able to propel us forward to start this technical program,” Maimone said. “We needed the buy-in from the big guys.

“Everyone really pulled together to come up with a program that we feel is very successful and definitely benefits their organization and our organization.”

Zeon Chemicals was the first corporate member, signing up last year.

“We were able to use them to kind of work out the kinks in the program, and in November we brought on a couple more, Akrochem and Hiawatha,” Maimone said.

The Rubber Division ramped up its marketing efforts in January, using email blasts, its newsletter and personal visits to entice prospective companies.

She said the organization has had inquiries from Malaysia and Australia, among other countries.

The Rubber Division now has around 2,000 individual members, but as many as 4,500 attend its annual International Elastomer Conference, and the division said it engages with close to 16,000 in various events it sponsors or services it provides.

“What's most important to us is not only maintaining but just increasing the number of individuals that are engaged with us and our industry,” Maimone said. “We anticipate our membership numbers continue to grow as our corporate membership program continues to be successful.”

Thomas said the reduced rates aren't a factor for the group.

“It's not about the money,” he said. “It's more about our organization, more about individuals realizing the value of what we had. The way we look at us, a member can call us with a question, and our librarian will facilitate getting the answer to them free. They become more familiar to what we have to offer. And we have a lot to offer.”