The Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA) is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021. While the official festivities will be held during SOCMA Week 2021, scheduled to take place October 20-22 at the Royal Sonesta in New Orleans, La., the association is also focusing on many additional initiatives throughout the year.

Last fall, SOCMA announced that it had purchased the Specialty & Custom Chemicals Show. “As a galvanizing force for the specialty and custom chemical community, it is SOCMA’s role and responsibility to connect the supply chain,” said Jennifer Abril, SOCMA’s president and CEO, at the time. “When we sold InformEx in 2005, it left a void. Our industry thrives on face-to-face, intimate interactions to solidify business partnerships and fulfill supply chain needs, and without InformEx that unique space for connecting was severed for SOCMA. Returning to the trade show space underpins our strategic focus to offer commercial growth opportunities for our members and the industry, alongside our year-round trove of tools and resources.”

SOCMA had planned to hold the Specialty & Custom Chemicals Show first in February 2021 and then in April. However, ongoing concerns related to COVID-19 and company travel restrictions prompted the association to postpone the event to February 2022. In the meantime, SOCMA provides opportunities that promote connections and business growth beyond the show floor with commercial services such as Lead Sheets, an industry matchmaking service, and Manufacturing Solutions Platform, a 24/7 searchable database that maps SOCMA member company capabilities.

Safety First

Of course, safety has long been one of SOCMA’s primary concerns. The association offers multiple resources to help its members understand and comply with the myriad regulations and legislative concerns surrounding the chemical industry. Indeed, its emphasis on safety education was the primary reason that Mike Ott, president and CEO of Polysciences, Inc. and newly elected chairman of the SOCMA board of governors, originally decided to join the association.

“Our company did not have formalized safety programs that had external verification,” Ott explains. “I'm a chemical guy, and safety is first on every priority list. I knew I needed to have that for my own company, and SOCMA was and is a wonderful resource.”

It could be argued that safety has never been more important, as COVID-19 has been a huge concern across all global industries over the past year. As essential businesses, specialty chemicals producers were not typically forced to shut down due to the outbreak. While this continued production of vital materials worked to assist with various aspects of the pandemic, the unprecedented situation posed many serious questions and challenges for producers.

SOCMA responded and helped educate its members by developing a forum and multiple webinars, as well as an online resources page. “SOCMA leaped upon the issue quickly and immediately had forums for the members to gather together, on a computer-based video meeting, and had many presentations and lots of resources for people to be aware of,” says Ott. “The specialty chemicals industry was out ahead of most companies or most industries in addressing the pandemic.”

SOCMA also continues to help government agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Labor understand how the pandemic is impacting the specialty chemical industry. SOCMA collaborated on a guidance document with Homeland Security for “Essential Industries” in the early days of the outbreak, as well as another document that was recently released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Advocacy Efforts

SOCMA’s government-related efforts are certainly not limited to those involving COVID-19. The association has long represented the interests of the specialty chemicals industry by educating regulators and advocating for sensible policy change.

“SOCMA is taking a multifaceted approach with the Biden Administration, which includes educating the new administration, developing a virtual policy summit and strengthening our existing relationships in federal agencies,” says Ott. “Understanding that COVID-19 recovery is the top priority, SOCMA will continue to work with the Biden Administration and its Task Force on efforts to eradicate the pandemic.”

Examples of economic and policy efforts include advocating to reopen the exclusion process for China 301 tariffs and requesting more transparency in the exclusion review process, a resolution to correct a policy change on enforcement of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Manufacturing Process Unit Exclusion, and improvements to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) program.

Specific work in terms of TSCA will focus on the importance of meeting deadlines for the review of new chemicals. “Adhering to these deadlines is critical for specialty chemical manufacturers that are developing new, cutting-edge products and are looking to get them to market in a timely manner,” Ott explains. “The slowdown in the review process, in conjunction with the advent of the fees program, has caused a sharp decline in pre-manufacture notice PMN (new chemical) submissions.”

Additional Activities

SOCMA also continues to develop new resources for its membership. This year will bring the next version of the Chemical Operations Training Tool, a multi-module course that features interactive 3D animations of process equipment and self-guided assessment exercises. In addition, a new Manufacturing Solutions Day will be launched this year to virtually showcase SOCMA members’ capabilities.

“I am particularly excited to lead SOCMA into 2021,” Ott said upon his election. “I especially look forward to working with my new board colleagues who bring fresh energy and enthusiasm to our leadership team. Their creativity and know-how will be instrumental in helping build upon the solid foundation set before us, making the organization stronger and more sustainable for years to come.”

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