Kettering plant key to new Kodak

By
Courtesy of the Associated Press

August 4, 2013

Kettering —The Kodak Co. that emerged from bankruptcy Tuesday is a very different business than the one that entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early last year.

What hasn’t changed is Kodak’s Kettering operations remain a key part of the company. Indeed, the operation may be more important than ever.

Kodak’s operations at the Miami Valley Research Park — and its 450 employees there — are focused on printing and the company’s Prosper inkjet printing system, which was developed in part there. The site is Kodak’s largest operation outside of its headquarters in Rochester, N.Y.

As the company shifts its focus from consumer photography to business-to-business printing, packaging and graphics, the Kettering operations are part of that, a company spokesman said.

“The Kettering site is very important,” Kodak spokesman Christopher Veronda said Tuesday. “The commercial inkjet is a key focus of the new company, and we expect to achieve significant growth in this product line.”

“We have emerged as a technology company serving imaging for business markets – including packaging, functional printing, graphic communications and professional services,” Antonio Perez, Kodak chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “We have been revitalized by our transformation and restructured to become a formidable competitor – leaner, with a strong capital structure, a healthy balance sheet, and the industry’s best technology.”

Kodak has spun off its imaging business to a U.K. subsidiary’s pension plan and struck an agreement for $695 million in exit financing, as well as securing $406 million in new equity investments from participating unsecured creditors, the company said.

A 19-month stint in Chapter 11 is not easily forgotten, as shareholders and creditors lost money and the company’s payroll shrank by 50 percent to 8,500 employees. But success can deal with any lingering image problems, said Michael Gorman, a professor in the University of Dayton’s School of Business Administration.

“With better financial statements and performance, Kodak can put this event behind it,” Gorman said.

Outside the supervision of a U.S. bankruptcy court, Kodak should have greater freedom and more confidence from partners and employees, said James Greenspan, chair of Wright State University’s accountancy department.

“You don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder, so to speak,” Greenspan said.

In a conference call with reporters, Perez took a question from someone who sought assurance that Rochester continues to be important to Kodak, with “so much of (the company’s) technology located in Ohio.”

In response, Perez said commercial inkjet printing technology was invented in Rochester and 90 percent of the company’s research and development budget remains in Rochester.

“Ohio is an important part of our value chain, and that’s where we have a group of people implementing the (inkjet) technology,” Perez said.

Kodak used to employ more than 60,000 people in Rochester in the heyday of the company’s 125-year history.

In 2010, when Perez visited Kettering and the company held an shareholders meeting there, the CEO called the Prosper printing system “a revolution in the printing industry.”

“The product line that is managed out of Dayton is one of the largest opportunities we have in the company,” Perez said then.

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©2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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