I have been in the U.S. for nearly two months and at ACS for a bit more than six weeks. Time has flown and I’ve been on a massive learning curve, but it has been exciting and fun. One of the most entertaining events I have attended in these few weeks is the SOCMA annual dinner that took place in New York City at the beginning of December. In case you are not familiar with this organization, SOCMA is the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates, an international trade association that represents the interests of the batch, custom, and specialty chemical industry. It was founded in 1921, making this the 93rd edition of this annual event, which had about 370 attendees.
Leadership and business development presentations and workshops held earlier in the day included talks about the power of branding and the global economy. These events were followed by a speed-networking session where business cards inevitably changed hands. I’ve taken part in this kind of event before: They are highly energetic and provide an efficient and fast mechanism to establish whether you have common business interests with someone. Also, first impressions count, so it’s an opportunity to get a feel for whether you’d be able to work with a particular person and even to catch a glimpse into an organization’s culture.
ACS figured prominently during the dinner, with ACS Executive Director and CEO Madeleine Jacobs receiving the SOCMA President’s Leadership Award for her work in the industry. She also accepted a donation from SOCMA for the ACS Scholars Program, which awards scholarships to underrepresented minority students who want to enter chemistry or chemistry-related fields. One of the ACS Scholars, Vicente Ochoa Jr., a chemical engineering student at New York University, had been invited to give a brief presentation at the dinner, and it was inspiring to see him on stage. He was very articulate and showed plenty of drive and passion to pursue a career in chemistry. In the next issue of C&EN we start a series of profiles of ACS Scholars, so you’ll have the opportunity to learn about others like him—but I’ll introduce this feature appropriately next week.
At the event I spoke to Larry Sloan, SOCMA’s president and CEO, about whether 2014 had been a good year for SOCMA members. His feeling was that member companies “are quite upbeat on business. Several started 2014 a little soft but ramped up business toward the end of the year. Some are actually running at full capacity,” he added, “and don’t have room for any new business right now.”
In terms of the year ahead, Sloan cautions that there is uncertainty with respect to what the new Congress will do and whether the Obama Administration may issue executive orders that adversely affect the chemical sector. But a bright spot of positive news that ended the year on a good note was passage by the Senate of a multiyear extension to CFATS, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. Collectively, the chemical industry has invested billions in upgrading security provisions to comply with the law and “this assures the industry that the program is being supported and is here to stay, at least in the medium term,” Sloan noted. It’s a positive start for 2015, which could become another good year for the small to medium-size enterprises SOCMA typically attracts.
Next for me is Informex in less than three weeks (Feb. 3–5 in New Orleans) and then Pittcon a few weeks after that (March 8–12, also in New Orleans). ACS will be exhibiting at both events, and C&EN reporters will be doing what they do best—bringing you the most relevant news and developments from the show floor and the exhibition program. If you want to keep up with us, I suggest you follow us on social media as we’ll be posting updates frequently. If you are planning to attend these events, please do drop by our booth and spend five minutes with us. I'd be delighted to meet you.
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