Oct 5, 2011
Having spent the first two years of my college life in Western New York, I got to befriend a number of folks from the Rochester area. Back then, if you were from Rochester, you had some sort of connection to that mighty corporate giant named Kodak.
At its height (which would have been about that time), Kodak employed 60,000, Think about that figure and the impact and influence it has on a mid-sized metro like this. If someone's father didn't work there, then another close relative or two likely did. If not, then someone in the family worked somewhere or other for a firm doing some sort of biz with the mighty K.
Rochester, then, became the prettier sister when compared to its nearby twin called Buffalo. Whereas the Big B's steel and smokestack industries made it gritty, smelly and dirty, the Kodak (as well as Xerox) economy of Rochester seemed both cleaner and "smarter". Of course, we needn't kid ourselves now: whereas Buffalo was visibly spewing its manufacturing toxins into the air, Rochester was no doubt burying its version into the ground. But image is everything, so there we were.
Today, we find Kodak on its kness and about to collapse into bankruptcy. Regional employment is down to about 6,700 and sinking, and we all know why. Things change and shit happens.
When the "Chapter 11" (or 7 or 13 or buyout whatever) announcement comes, the paid pundits will sit back and talk about how Kodak never made the transition to digital, how it held on to its traditional business for too long, how management blew it and so on. Don't bother: we already get all that.
But we don't need it all packaged in the tragedy & horror wrapper. Where is it written that business enterprises must exist forever, or else they are tagged as a failure in the future history books? Such an analysis is improper.
If Kodak disappears in the coming months or years, let us instead celebrate its profound legacy as inspiration. It had what sure was a pretty darn good run; and that should be good enough.