Eastman Kodak: “One Of The Greatest 2nd Acts” In US Industrial History

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ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – The Trump Administration has signed a deal to give a $765 million loan to Eastman Kodak, so that the company can produce critical components for pharmaceuticals.

Trump Administration and Kodak officials say this new venture should create at least 300 jobs in Rochester, the home of the 130-year-old company which has had tough times in recent years after digital photography largely replaced film.  A new division will see Kodak produce components used in generic drugs.

Various federal and Kodak officials gather for a photo-op after the signing of the deal that will provide the company with a $765 million loan. CREDIT RANDY GORBMAN / WXXI NEWS

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who was among the federal officials making the announcement Tuesday afternoon at Kodak Center, used a literary reference to describe the Kodak’s new venture.

“F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that there are no second acts in America. Well, this is going to be the second act, one of the greatest second acts in American industrial history,” Navarro said.

Jim Continenza, Kodak’s executive chairman, said that the government contract will help Kodak enter a new era.

“That’s what we’ve done since day one. We’ve printed for 130 years, we’ve done film for 130 years. We’ve done chemicals for 130 years. We’re back to what we do and we’re not doing anything else,” Continenza said. He expects the full ramp-up of employment to happen over the next three-and-a-half years.

Kodak will continue to produce products for commercial printing and packaging and will still make some film products. The new pharmaceutical division is expected to eventually make up 30% to 40% of Kodak’s business.

President Donald Trump hailed the agreement during his White House Briefing.

“We must never be reliant on a foreign nation for America’s medical or other needs,”  Trump said.

The Kodak pharmaceutical unit will have the capacity to produce up to 25% of the active ingredients needed to make generic drugs in the U.S. according to Trump.

Shares of Kodak more than tripled on the announcement by the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., closing at $7.94 on Tuesday.

Adam Boehler, heads the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, said he learned that the company was interested in creating a start-up that could supply ingredients for pharmaceuticals.

“If you look at drugs, 90% of the drugs that we take today are generics, and they are almost all made overseas,” Boehler said in an interview on CNBC. “The dominant manufacturer of ingredients for generics is China, and #2 is India. And so, we said if we’re going to re-shore and bring things back and we’re going to have safety and security going forward, we need to change that.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a video message he recorded for Tuesday’s announcement, said this highlights the kind of support the federal government should be providing during the pandemic.

“To make sure that we can manufacture these essential supplies, right here, at home in the United States of America…the federal government should be doing just what they are doing today, using the Defense Production Act to increase America’s manufacturing capacity, to create new jobs and to keep America safe,” Cuomo said.

In a statement hailing the announcement, Rep. Joe Morelle stated:  “Rochestarians have long harnessed their entrepreneurial fortitude to create some of our society’s most ingenuitive inventions. That’s why the name Kodak has been synonymous with Rochester for over a century, and why we’ve been given this opportunity to step upboth for our community and for our nation.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello stated: “I am excited to see Kodak leading this forward thinking initiative and am confident that our skilled workforce will make it a success.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement:  “Our residents created a legacy working at Kodak to provide world-class products and countless memories for people throughout our nation and our world. Now, we will get another opportunity to show the world our ingenuity and quality again through Kodak Pharmaceuticals.”

Bob Duffy, the president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce stated that the chamber is “pleased to see a historic local company tapped for a federal manufacturing initiative that will help combat COVID-19, as well as bring 300 jobs to our region.” He added that Kodak’s, “unique capabilities and intellectual capital that will be put to critical use during this challenging time.”

The Associated Press also contributed to this story.

Video of the event by WXXI’s Katie Epner: