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The biggest headline

Rochester Business Journal
October 12, 2012

RBJ readers overwhelmingly pick Kodak's decline as the top story

At the end of 1987, Eastman Kodak Co. was a business icon with nearly 45,000 local employees. It was Rochester's Great Yellow Father. Today, Kodak's job count here has fallen below 5,000 and the company is struggling to emerge from Chapter 11 reorganization.
Overwhelmingly, Rochester Business Journal readers chose Kodak's decline and bankruptcy as the top local business news story of the past 25 years. No other story was even close.
Among nearly 500 respondents to a poll conducted this summer, 59 percent said Kodak's fall was the biggest story of the past quarter-century. Tied in second place, at 7 percent, were the overall decline of manufacturing employment and the resilience of the local economy.
Five years ago, when the Rochester Business Journal marked its 20th anniversary, the downsizing of Kodak, Xerox Corp. and Bausch & Lomb Inc. dominated a similar poll-52 percent said it was the top local business story of the past two decades. The decline of manufacturing ranked second, at 8 percent, with the fast-ferry debacle third at 6 percent. (Only 1 percent of respondents named the fast ferry this time.)
Where will Kodak rank five years hence? If the company exits Chapter 11 with its financial health restored and growth recaptured, Kodak might top the list once again. 
On the basis of what the area would be like today had the selected top business news story NOT occurred, the "winner" is the decline of Eastman Kodak Co. Imagine if Kodak still employed (more than 60,000) in Rochester directly and bought materials from another 15,000!
  -D. Kennedy, Webster
Please note that, with the exception of three success stories and one tragic downfall, every other major issue noted over the last 25 years involves the negative consequences of government overreach.
  -Devin Michaels
Rochester could have become a Detroit but instead it was recently listed as a city "poised for greatness" by a major magazine. This is a remarkable story of reinvention.

It's a tossup, but unfortunately the top two stories in my opinion are the result of incompetent people. The decline and bankruptcy of Kodak (created by a number of the senior management over the years), and the failure of the fast ferry (the work of then-Mayor Bill Johnson).
  -Rick Corey
Hands down top story-Kodak's total demise, for the effect it has on the social, economic and workforce culture in a community so heavily defined and perceived by the fortunes of one business entity.
  -Bruno Sniders, Webster
While underrated, I would also consider the inability of our local government to bring home the Renaissance Square project. Especially since the downfall of this opportunity can be traced directly to the actions of a very popular mayor who would eventually become lieutenant governor.
The fast ferry was just plain a joke. Most of the stories are not "Rochester" stories; they are unfortunately American stories. I would like to say something positive like UR/RIT or Constellation Brands, Paychex (and) Wegmans or the resilience of the local economy, but the biggest story has to be about Kodak's decline and bankruptcy. In 25 years, Kodak went from our largest employer and went from having a worldwide market share for film of over 75 percent to having a share price of about half of the cost a first-class mail stamp. Sad.
It isn't only the fall of manufacturing employment, but the loss of major corporations-Gannett and Kodak highlight the list. Sure there are others.
  -Ted Marks
All the individual components are certainly important stories, but I think the "resilience of the local economy" is most poignant, and possibly could be repositioned as the "reinvention of the local economy." How else can we account for the stability of this region in the face of the declining fortunes of other major players in the local economy?
  -David Gottfried
If you said "Kodak" 25 years ago you thought of a great company, "In Search of Excellence," etc. Say "Kodak" today and you hear derisive comments about a dismal failure. That just about sums it up.
  -D. Ehrich
There are several close to the top that should not have happened. Kodak's decline, fast ferry's failure, Midtown demolition, and the impact of rising health care costs.
  -Greg Clyde
Kodak was Rochester in many ways!!!

What is the top local business news story of the past 25 years?

Kodak's decline and bankruptcy: 59%
Resilience of the local economy: 7%
Decline of manufacturing employment: 7%
Growing economic importance of UR and RIT: 6%
Impact of state and local taxes: 4%
Success of Wegmans: 4%
Midtown demolition: 2%
Other (includes the following): 9%
  • Recession/financial crisis
      and its local impact
  • Impact of rising health care costs
  • Fast ferry's failure
  • Growth of Constellation Brands
      and Finger Lakes wine region
  • Increase in non-local ownership
      of major employers
  • Rise in service-sector employment
  • Success of Thomas Golisano
      and Paychex
• Outmigration of young people

10/12/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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