I’m pretty sure that 1997 was the year that I had the opportunity to visit Greenwood, South Carolina for my first—and last—time. I’ll never forget the event that brought me there, as it was one of the proudest moments in the life of Fujifilm, USA, as it broke ground on a new state-of-the-art paper factory in this rural SC town. By then, Fujifilm had already invested over 1 billion dollars in its Greenwood factory complex, and I couldn’t understand why it chose a town in the middle of the cotton belt, more than an hour from the nearest major airport, to set up shop. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Fujifilm to build it in near its USA headquarters in NY State? It took a speech from S.C. Governor David Beasley to clarify the choice made by Fujifilm. I can’t quote him word for word, but at some point in the speech he screamed something very much like “And if those Yankee’s up in Rochester, NY think they’re going to win this war, they've got something coming!”
My Yankee jaw dropped as the crowd cheered and some waved confederate flags. Then it hit me. This is war in Fujifilm’s eyes! And Fujifilm chose this exact location because it knew it would have no trouble rounding up the troops to kick Kodak’s Yankee butt!
OK, I knew that Fujifilm had the eye of the tiger when it came to being aggressive in its US marketing of film and cameras, but that day I worried about Kodak and the folks in Rochester who didn’t have a clue about what they were up against. That late in the decade Fujifilm had a relatively small percentage of the film and paper industry, and no one at Kodak seemed worried over the investment Fujifilm was making in SC and how that plant, loaded with automated equipment, would be able to produce photo paper, single use cameras, and a variety of other photo products at a much lower cost than the plants in Rochester.
This event came back into my mind when I heard about the demolition of building 9 and 23 at the gigantic Kodak Park manufacturing complex in Rochester, NY on June 30, 2007.
In 1997 Building 9 was a thriving, fully staffed manufacturing facility for finishing color photographic paper. Don’t know how many people worked in this 725,000 square foot building, but they had more than enough time to get out before the bombs leveled the place in a precision implosion. But the spin control from Kodak is in fine form on this one, and I quote from the Kodak-sponsored web site:
“The floors were made of 18-inch thick reinforced concrete. There were hundreds of supporting pillars that were 3-feet wide, 5 feet wide at the top, to support these floors/ceilings. To say this was a substantial structure is an understatement!
We chose to make the most of this implosion to highlight our new KODAK EASYSHARE All-in-One printers.”
SAY WHAT? You chose to make the most of this event to highlight your new ink jet printers? You failed to mention those are made in China, not Rochester. Had you chosen to not put a spin on the demolition, do you think no one in Rochester would notice the missing buildings? You can probably see the hole in the ground from space!!
For more spin, visit (sorry, my automatic linking function is out of order):
Sure, Kodak is only trying to make the best of a bad situation--the fall off in demand for its paper that led to moving the facilities to lower cost environments (read foreign). The question that remains is whether the ground breaking ceremony I witnessed in 1997 was the root cause for the demise of that Kodak facility, or if other factors were involved. Did home printing with ink jet devices made by Epson, Canon, HP, and Lexmark cause a dramatic falloff in sales of silver halide papers? Not at all, especially when you realize how many Fuji Frontier digital minilabs still work 24/7 cranking out digital camera prints on 4x6 sheets of silver-halide paper. In fact, there are probably more prints being made on silver-halide based photo papers today than there were in 1997. But I'll bet the majority of those Fuji-branded digital minilabs use Fuji paper too. And I wonder if anyone from SC remembered to plant a confederate flag in the rubble of building 9.