Kodak shriks with changing times
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ROCHESTER — As mainstream photography turns digital, the mammoth
film-manufacturing hub that George Eastman opened here in 1891 is
A decade ago, when it stretched across 1,600 acres, Kodak Park was
easily the biggest industrial complex in the Northeast. By year-end,
when Eastman Kodak Co. wraps up a drastic, four-year digital
overhaul, its miles-long perimeter will encompass a mere 700 acres.
The factories where film, paper and other chemical-based products
were made by generations of Kodakers are disappearing just as fast.
The company used explosives to implode three cavernous buildings this
summer and has sold big tracts to developers, most recently a 330-
acre plot anchored by a 2.1 million-square-foot warehouse.
Robert Burley, a photography professor at Ryerson University in
Toronto, felt a tremor in his heart when Building 50— a four-story
paper products plant built in 1918 — was reduced in seconds to a
pile of rubble on an overcast morning in mid-September.
“It’s a very significant time in the history of photography, and
the implosion of that building really made the point very strongly,”
The transition to a world without film is occurring at lightning
pace. An estimated 67 percent of U.S. households had digital cameras
in 2006, up from 20 percent in 2002, according to market research
Even as revenues in its traditional businesses tumble, Kodak is still
leaning hard on high-margin film to generate the profits needed to
see it through the most painful passage in its 126-year history.
More than 200,000 employees have passed through its gates. But only
about 100 buildings will be left this winter, down from 212 in the
1990s. Kodak’s work force also is contracting: its global payroll
will soon slide to 34,000, half what it was five years ago. In
Rochester, there will be fewer than 10,000 employees — versus 60,400
© 2007 The Buffalo News.