Kodak’s Enduring Legacy

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It all started when General Dynamics, an electronics plant, moved operations from Rochester to San Diego in the early seventies. This would not be the first company to move and it most certainly wouldn’t be the last.

However, change isn’t always a bad thing; people learn to adapt, and often times for the better. After GD’s move, the leader of the underwater navigation department founded ENI, now part of MKS Instruments, an industrial equipment supplier. Another example is Edward McDonald, head of anti-submarine warfare division, who had the opportunity to move, but instead founded EDMAC. EDMAC is now a part of Ultra Electronics’ Flightline Systems. Many others who were ‘left behind’ went on to join R.F. Communications (now part of L3 Harris), Xerox and Bausch & Lomb.

Following GD’s move, Rochester was one of the least-diversified metro economies in the 1980s. Much of the employment in the area was under Eastman Kodak, Xerox and Bausch & Lomb; 74,000 people to be exact and 17 percent of total employment. Because Eastman Kodak’s wages were significantly higher than the average of people in the area, total personal income was even higher than its share of employment.

Rochester’s community was influenced with many contributions from George Eastman, Kodak’s founder. His philanthropy and innovative approach led him to creating museums, schools, institutions, and a theatre. He saw a vision for Rochester and he wasn’t wrong. Because of Rochester’s uniqueness, many people have stayed in town despite their company’s relocation. So what happened when Kodak failed? Just like General Dynamics, “ex-Kodakers” were forced to face the same decision: do we stay and adapt or leave?

After the fall of Kodak, in January 2012, many firms were founded through divisions which were still intact, or through “spin-offs” into independent firms. The largest are L3 Harris Space & Intelligence, Carestream Health and Ortho Clinical Diagnostics which have 4,600 employees all together. A few smaller, but notable companies created by “ex-Kodakers” are OLEDWorks, Lenel (now part of United Technologies) and Optimac Systems which have 700 employees. Following Kodak’s bankruptcy and reorganization, Kodak Alaris, Ultralife, and Arnprior Rapid Manufacturing Solutions were created as “spin-outs” employing 1,000 people.

The series, An Enduring Legacy with the Rochester Beacon will explore the legacy of Kodak, connections to specific firms, the impact of bankruptcy on Kodak retirees and the potential for employment at our very own Eastman Business Park. We look forward to reading the next article to gain more understanding on exactly what happened with Kodak and the effects of the aftermath.

Read the first article of the series - An Enduring Legacy on the Rochester Beacon website...


Posted in: City of Rochester, Eastman Business Park, Eastman Kodak Company
Tagged: Business Development, innovation ecosystem