The Flexible Packaging Association recently held its 2014 Fall Executive Conference in Chicago, Illinois. A record number of FPA members and guests attended the conference which was preceded by the association’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee meetings.

The outstanding and informative conference presentations are summarized below and available in the Members Only section of the FPA website,

FPA General Counsel Rick Silverman Retiring

Rick Silverman, a partner of Hogan Lovells US LLP, attended his last FPA meeting as General Counsel.  Rick has been the FPA general counsel since 1998, working behind the scenes and at all FPA meetings to ensure that members are always compliant with anti-trust and other laws and regulations that govern our association and businesses.  He will be retiring from Hogan Lovells at the end of this year. Joseph Krauss, a partner at Hogan Lovells, will succeed Rick as FPA General Counsel.


Flexible Packaging Industry Workforce Development

Hiring a qualified workforce is a top issue for flexible packaging industry manufacturers.  Ron Painter, CEO of the National Association of Workforce Boards discussed findings from a soon-to-be-released FPA study conducted by NAWB on Workforce Development within the Flexible Packaging Industry.  Ron provided strategies to develop potential workers and addressed skilled labor shortages. He outlined several possible strategies for workforce development, including how to hire veterans, develop an apprenticeship program, and institute industry sector approaches, along with an extensive list of national and state resources.

Communicating the Benefits of Flexible Packaging

Laurel McEwen, a sustainability strategist, and experienced trainer and consultant on Life Cycle Analysis, has developed the world’s largest LCA on-line training program. Laurel presented ways to communicate complex information in an interactive format using short YouTube videos, diagrams, infographics, illustrations and animations to engage and educate a variety of audiences with facts and key messaging.  Laurel also discussed using illustrative examples to educate audiences about how to effectively tell the story of keeping food fresh longer and lessening food waste through highlighting attributes and uses of flexible packaging.

Assessing the Impact of Environmental Groups on Flexible Packaging

Danna Pfahl, Vice President of Stakeholder Engagement, Future 500 and Tony Kingsbury, Founder and President of TKingsbury LLC are experts in identifying issues that mobilize non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other special interest groups. Danna and Tony identified NGOs and other stakeholders with interest in packaging.  The FPA study will be available exclusively to FPA members later this year.

The “Energy Bag” Plastics- to-Energy Pilot Program

Jeff Wooster, Global Sustainability Director for The Dow Chemical Company presented a program overview and update on the “Energy Bag” Plastics-to-Energy Pilot Program.  The three-month long Energy Bag Pilot examined the viability of collecting and sorting flexible packaging for resource recovery as an end-of-packaging-life option. The process converts non-recycled plastics into usable energy resources.

The collaborative effort of the Energy Bag Pilot, included Dow, Republic Services, City of Citrus Heights, American Chemistry Council, Reynolds Consumer Products, and FPA which is providing support for the final report and documentary.  He outlined “next steps” which includes future research, including “Energy Bag 2.0.”  Jeff will provide “follow up” research at the FPA Annual Meeting in 2015. 

Approaching the American Age

Peter Zeihan, an energy and geopolitical strategist and FPA guest speaker, used geography, demography and energy studies to chart a bright future for the U.S.  He attributes the U.S. strength and economic independence to its extensive waterway access, its spatial location on both coasts to the rest of the world, and the production of the deepest capital market resource—shale.  Additionally, the U.S. agricultural infrastructure is well positioned to produce grain and other resources and export them through efficient transportation channels.  Demography will have a large impact on the future success of the global economy. Zeihan said that the U.S. population continues to evolve where globally, it’s hollowing out.  He also predicts that Mexico’s labor resources are now more highly skilled and cheaper than in China.

Peter Zeihan’s Powerpoint presentation and a video recording are available at in the “member’s only” section.

Update—Polyolefins Market Indicators: What to Expect and Why

Nick Vafiadis, Business Global Director, Polyolefins and Plastics, IHS Chemical provided an update of the costs and availability of flexible packaging materials. Record margins are expected for the Polyethylene producers in 2014.  The “seller’s market” conditions will continue through 2015 into 2016.   In the North America Polypropylene market, the 2014 average prices are historically high due to high propylene monomer. The domestic demand is forecasted to increase despite elevated pricing levels.  Lack of margin results in delays in expected PP projects and delays in North America PP expansions are expected to keep margins and prices higher.

Apollo 13: A Successful Failure

Captain Jim Lovell —Luncheon Keynote speaker

To begin the luncheon keynote, a segment from the 1995 film version of the best-selling book “Apollo 13,” starring Tom Hanks, as Captain Lovell was shown.  The “real” Jim Lovell was then introduced to over 100 attendees at the FPA Fall Executive Conference.

Captain Lovell, an octogenarian, slowly brought the audience onboard the spacecraft and graphically navigated them through the harrowing circumstances surrounding the flight headed to the moon. An explosion in the #2 oxygen supply, causing the #1 tank to also fail left the “Odyssey” inoperable. As a visual aide, Lovell used actual silent voyage footage to explain how the crew and mission control had the task to return to earth through a narrow window of space using only celestial guidance and their ability to manually operate an aircraft to bring the ill equipped “Aquarius” capsule safely home.

Although the audience knew the “outcome,” they were riveted and gave Captain Lovell a standing ovation.  Captain Lovell's inspirational story is often described as "a testament to the essential elements of heroism: a courageous spirit, quick and well-reasoned thinking, meticulous attention to every detail, and the spirit of teamwork that guided him and his crew safely back to Earth."