TCC News

Meet the Chairman of the Board: DuPont’s Bobby Laughlin

In his more than 35-year career with just one company – E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) – recently elected Texas Chemical Council Board of Directors Chairman John R. “Bobby” Laughlin has held many roles throughout the company: plant operations, supply chain, corporate operations, and human resources management.

And through his time at DuPont, Laughlin has credited the company’s corporate culture to “create an environment for employees to thrive and be creative to meet objectives,” Laughlin said he wants our people to “enjoy coming to work” by creating an organization “where they see value in their role, both short term and long term and know they are making a difference in the world.”

A native Texan born and raised in Seguin, Laughlin received his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Bobby began his career in 1978 with DuPont in Victoria. He was Plant Manager at DuPont’s Yerkes site in Buffalo (NY) for five years. Bobby returned to Texas in 2006 as Plant Manager at DuPont’s LaPorte site near Houston.

In 2010 he became Site Manager at DuPont’s Sabine River Works located in Orange, Texas and recently assumed the additional role of North American Operations Director for the DuPont Packaging and Industrial Polymers business.

Laughlin cites DuPont’s core values to strive toward perfect behavior in each of four areas: Safety & Health, Environmental Stewardship, Respect for People, and Highest Ethical Standards.

He also credits a culture of constant communications to manage their business and share the company vision through, 1) shift start and daily morning cross functional meetings, 2) annual safety kickoffs as well as monthly safety meetings, and 3) monthly updates of unit and business performance.  In addition Laughlin meets several times a month with differing groups of 10 employees from around the site to “understand what is working well, understand concerns, and share information so they can better understand our complex business and see how the products we produce help make people’s lives better, safer, and healthier,” said Laughlin. 

Bobby previously served as Chair of the Texas Chemical Council’s Occupational Safety Committee for several years, and credits this time as “having been very rewarding and helpful to interact with my industry peers,” he said.

“I like the concept of a group of industry professionals coming together from plants across Texas to improve our industry’s safety performance to new levels through sharing of best practices,” Laughlin said.

Laughlin said he is also proud of the growth of TCC/ACIT Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Seminar. “It’s profoundly impactful to drive industry to better and better outcomes,” he said, “and I’m proud of my peers… especially the increased participation by plant managers.”

Several years ago, EHS Seminar organizers recognized that more site leaders needed to attend, so they began offering a free day for all plant managers to attend. Ever since, attendance has grown substantially.  A plant manager’s track was started last year so that managers can learn from the experiences of their peers.

“And, the EHS Award ceremony is always a delight to see industry recognize outstanding performance,” Laughlin said, “especially for our industry’s very complex plants with highly-hazardous operations.

Laughlin also serves on the University of Texas Chemical Engineering External Advisory Council. And locally, he serves on the Orange County United Way Board of Directors and the Lutcher Theater Board of Directors.

“It’s so important to work with outside groups in the community,” he said, “so that employees understand how fortunate we are and the needs of others.” Laughlin is passionate about serving on the Lutcher Theater board because attracting talent for industry often means helping make communities robust in culture, not just outdoor activities like hunting and fishing.

Another key community partnership for Laughlin is his company’s work in support of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) by partnering with schools through the DuPont Science SuperStars Program, which served more than 3,000 elementary students in 2013 alone.

The Science SuperStars Program, led by outstanding science educator Michael Hoke, provides training in science concepts and presentation techniques to 8th grade students from local schools. After being qualified as “Science SuperStars”, the students then present hands-on science shows to elementary students in the area, as well as to local community groups. Additionally, the Program provides opportunities for middle school and elementary school teachers to improve their understanding of science concepts and presentation of the concepts.

Laughlin said, “It’s so important to plant the seeds – early on – that science is fun.” Getting young students wanting to do well, then “to connect the concept of science with future careers.”

Bobby and his wife Karen, who is also a graduate of the University of Texas and is a pharmacist, have two children. Their daughter Devon will graduate from Drexel University in Philadelphia this spring and will be start medical school this fall. Their son Sean is attending the University of Texas at Austin studying Aerospace Engineering.

Laughlin said it’s “it’s important to put family first as well as finding time for theater, entertainment, and golf. Karen and I really enjoy the Mardi Gras Krewe we belong to and doing community service activities with them.”

Now that both kids have gone off to college, Laughlin said that finding the right balance with work and family can be a challenge, “especially when you truly enjoy your work,” he said.

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SBOE: Maintain Flexibility in High School Graduation Plans

By Hector L. Rivero, President & CEO, Texas Chemical Council and Association of Chemical Industry of Texas

During the 2013 Texas legislative session, lawmakers passed a landmark education law — House Bill 5 (HB 5) — that will provide more course flexibility to high school students, allowing for more dual credit classes and career and technology education (CTE). Rather than a “one-size-fits-all” education system, students can pursue their individual interests, have a more relevant education and a head start on the skills in demand in our industries.
 The Texas Chemical Council (TCC) and Association of Chemical Industry of Texas were strong advocates of the reforms in HB 5. In fact, TCC led a broad coalition of business groups — the Jobs for Texas Coalition, which represents 22 trade associations, 300,000 individual businesses and more than 6 million jobs — in support of HB 5’s passage.

For years, businesses in our industry have been struggling to find qualified, skilled professionals. An aging work force and demand from the new shale gas discoveries and subsequent economic boom have exacerbated the shortage of available tradesmen.

HB 5 made substantial changes to the state’s graduation requirements, moving from the current “4x4” graduation plans to a 22-credit Foundation High School Program that allows students to earn endorsements in specific areas of study by completing four additional credits.

Now it’s the job of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) to implement rules dealing with graduation requirements and determine the requirements for each endorsement area: STEM (science, technology, engineering and math); business and industry; public service; arts and humanities; and multidisciplinary studies.

SBOE must develop the curriculum and class requirements for each endorsement by the 2014-2015 school year so local school districts are offering enough courses to satisfy the requirements.

The first step in the rulemaking process was a public hearing in September, followed by Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff drafting a proposed rule to be considered at the SBOE November meeting. If the rules receive preliminary approval, there will be a 30-day public comment period. If they remain on schedule, rules could be adopted by January.

We urge the 15 members of the SBOE to follow the clear legislative intent of the Texas Legislature to provide the much-needed flexibility in both graduation plans and endorsements. SBOE should not create rules that are so prescriptive they prevent local school districts from tailoring courses and graduation plans to meet individual interests and the work force needs of their community.

We want to remind the SBOE excellent courses already exist for several endorsements through internationally recognized certification programs. SBOE should utilize these existing courses developed within industries — accreditation programs like NCCER, MSSC (Manufacturing Skills Standard Council), ISO (International Standards Organization) and many others. Students can then benefit by earning not only high school and college credit but also credit toward certificates recognized and sought after by multiple industries across Texas, the United States and the world.

We encourage industry individuals to contact their SBOE members and ask them to maintain the necessary flexibility in graduation plans and endorsements, allowing school districts to identify courses that meet work force needs. Urge them to utilize courses found in several internationally recognized certificate programs and offered at community and junior colleges across the state. Send an email to all SBOE members at

Another exciting part of the new law is local school districts may create new career-oriented, for-credit courses without first getting approval from the SBOE. We encourage industry to open a dialogue with local school districts and institutions of higher learning to develop, design and approve courses that can be taught in high school and help prepare students for post-secondary education and/or the work force.

If industry is going to manage its future work force needs, we must work with educators in our local communities to develop relevant courses that prepare students for success.

For more information, visit TCC or ACIT at or, or call (512) 646-6400.

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