Insight: Hometown weary but defiant as Kodak's problems worsen

Tue Oct 4, 2011 6:35pm EDT
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By Clare Baldwin

ROCHESTER, NY (Reuters) - With investors placing bets on whether Eastman Kodak EK.N will file for bankruptcy, there is not so much a sense of crisis as a feeling of resignation and fatigue among the residents in its hometown.

At one point, the company employed more than 60,000 people in Rochester in upstate New York, where it was born more than 130 years ago. Now, that number is closer to 7,000 - and it has been decades since the company, once synonymous with photography, began its downward slide.

"There's a saying around Rochester that there is life after Kodak," Tom Diederich, 59, said wryly. Diederich, who works part-time for car rental agency Hertz, retired from Kodak a month ago when his job was eliminated as part of cost-cutting. He spent 20 years in Kodak's film division.

"I don't think the impact will be as terrible as it could have been. The steady decline of Kodak allowed the area to absorb the impact," he said.

He acknowledges that for years the company has been based on "obsolete technology," but he shied away from assigning blame or expressing anger.

"I raised a family on a Kodak paycheck. They were good to me...and I am grateful to them for that," he said.

Jim Cook, 64, who spent 39 years in Kodak's paper finishing business and now does maintenance at a local Comfort Inn hotel, also said he would work for Kodak again, if given the chance.

Kodak hired Cook after high school, put him through computer programing, computer repair and electrician classes, and two apprenticeships, one in sheet metal and one in being an electrician.   Continued...

<p>A lone Kodak workers enter corporate headquarters in Rochester, New York January 22, 2004. REUTERS/Gary Wiepert</p>