IHS Chemical Week


Joe Acker Signs off as President and CEO, Looks to the Future

8:59 AM MST | January 4, 2010 | By JOE ACKER

Over the span of my 40-year career in the specialty chemical industry, I have learned that with every challenge, there is also opportunity.  Today, globalization and outsourcing, coupled with the rise of China as a chemical manufacturing nation, are ushering in a sea change that has U.S. companies rethinking how they do business. 

While global outsourcing is relatively a recent phenomenon, it has had a tremendous impact on U.S. manufacturing and its affects have only been exacerbated by the down economy.  Last [month], the Administration announced plans to stave off job losses in manufacturing, which is increasingly moving to China and India, by providing $5 billion in tax credits that would spur business for the sector.

"We must be sure that those who wish to sell the goods that they make in the U.S. in other countries have the market access they need and that those who sell domestically do not face unfair competition from advantaged foreign producers," the White House said in statement.

In the late 1960s, when I began my career at Merck & Co. in Danville, PA, I was responsible for one of their manufacturing plants. A decade later, U.S. manufacturing accounted for 30% of all jobs and CEOs at chemical companies and in other industries were taking notice. In the 1980s, companies like Merck were establishing a manufacturing presence in China and Americans began fearing that good paying jobs were being shipped overseas. The gradual movement of manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. continued over the years and today, manufacturing constitutes just less than 9% of the labor force.

The off-shoring of jobs to China and India, and to a lesser degree Europe, may be among the reason why Americans today are uncertain about their place in the global marketplace. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 44% of the public thinks China is the world’s leading economic power, compared to 27% who name the US.

History tells us that small businesses, which are typically more adaptable, will lead this country out of recession. The Administration’s actions to revitalize the manufacturing sector without imposing stringent and costly regulations that deter small and mid-sized chemical companies from competing globally will be important toward that end.   

The White House, for its part, says this: “We need legal, tax and regulatory regimes that promote American manufacturing and do not place an undue burden on those who wish to manufacture products in America.”

That is welcome news, especially as calls for tougher chemical regulations growing louder in the U.S.

As we approach the [start of 2010], I am looking forward to the coming year with confidence that American ingenuity, innovation, and integrity will be the driver that turns our challenges into opportunities.     

Acker is succeeded by
Lawrence D. Sloan as president and CEO, effective February 10, 2010. Sloan is a chemical engineer by training. He has served as president of the
Adhesive and Sealant Council (ASC), a trade association representing the adhesive and sealant industry.

Sloan: Taking over as
president and CEO of Socma.


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