When Ben Hartigan graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing, he started applying for jobs and soon found himself working for the Absolute Group of Companies.

“I had no idea I was even working in plastics when I started,” Ben said. “I just applied randomly online.”

Fortunately, Ben found both a company and an industry where he feels right at home. “To put it simply,” he explained, “we sell new and used injection molding machines as well as robots and automation.”

Today, Ben is marketing manager for all three of the companies that comprise the Absolute Group: Absolute Haitian (new injection molding machine sales), Absolute Machinery (used plastics equipment sales), and ARI (new robots & automation for molders). His days are dedicated to creating marketing campaigns, generating specification sheets, managing websites, social media, creating listings of machinery, and performing market research.

Team player, great team

An obvious believer in his chosen company, Ben is quick to describe Absolute’s story of growth. “The company started out in 2000,” he said, “selling used equipment and serving as local sales representation for various molding machine companies and auxiliary vendors. In 2006, we signed a deal as the exclusive distributors of Haitian molding machines in the U.S. & Canada. In 2013 we started the ARI automation division to further support those molding customers.”

Ben is even more effusive when it comes to talking about the human element of working at Absolute. “The three owners of the Absolute Group of Companies, Nathan Smith, Mike Ortolano and Glenn Frohring have been the best mentors anyone could as for,” he said, pointing out that his mentors have taught him everything from the ins and outs of  molding machines to how the business side of the operation works. “They have helped me literally every step of the way, answering every question and offering me tons of advice,” Ben added.

And it’s not only the company’s leaders who have won Ben’s respect. “It is always an awesome experience when you get to talk to creative and smart engineers who are passionate about what they are making,” he said. “Their ability to think outside the box to create or automate their processes is incredible.”

Ready for the future

The Absolute Group has also given Ben the benefit of company membership in the Plastics Industry Association, which introduced him to the Future Leaders in Plastics (FliP) group for plastics professionals under the age of 40. After about six months of active participation in FLiP, Ben said, “It has allowed me to see what other peers in my industry are doing. It is an amazing tool for networking and for keeping informed on the industry.” He added, “It has also been an educational experience for best business practices and leadership skills.”

One of the priorities for FLiP members is recognizing and preparing to deal with the negative view so many people seem to have of plastics, these days, and Ben has some definite ideas to contribute. “The industry needs to drill in the point that we simply cannot survive without plastic products and that, no matter what, these products will be made,” he said, adding that we then need to look at the differences between producing these products in the U.S. versus the rest of the world. “In the U.S., we have strict regulations that ensure everything is clean, safe, recyclable and environmentally friendly,” he said, “where other countries have rivers of plastic flowing into the oceans. The products will be made anyway, so save the planet and make them in the U.S.”

Being part of the solution to the waste problems concerning the world is something Ben believes can be appealing to other jobseekers of his generation. “It allows someone to creatively solve problems and have a very positive impact on the world,” he said.

More young people in search of rewarding careers may have the same experience Ben had, after discovering that he had inadvertently gone to work in the plastics industry. “I’ve come to realize how much I value having plastics in my life and how I used to take it for granted,” he said. “Most people outside the industry don’t realize how integral plastics is to daily life.”

PLASTICS and the Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) Committee are devoted to supporting and encouraging the next generation of plastics leaders who will play a crucial role in the innovation, technology and future of the plastics industry. FLiP’s mission is to provide young professionals under the age of 40 the exposure, education and resources they need to build lifelong careers in plastics. Want to join? Want to get your employees involved? Email: flip@plasticsindustry.org