Tuesday is a big day for Kodak as the company is set to announce it will be making pharmaceuticals for generic drugs in a move that is projected to bring 300 new jobs to Rochester and a major expansion of the company's business.
In the era of the phone camera, it's easy to forget Kodak's been into chemistry for as long as George Eastman had us taking pictures. Kodak Alaris is still making photo and film chemicals in Gates. And even though it spun off Eastman Chemical more than 25 years ago, Kodak's still built for it.
Two years ago, the company generated a study promoting Eastman Business Park as a perfect place for drug making. And soon, that is what will be happening.
Kodak's going to become the first company to benefit from the Trump administration's Defense Production Act. It will receive a $765 million loan to launch a new pharmaceutical production operation. What they'll do is make chemicals for generic drugs. Kodak's executive chairman says it'll use its history of producing key chemical ingredients to help the nation stockpile product and make it independent of supply chains from China and India.
Kodak says its business, through the loan, would focus on critical pharmaceutical ingredients, deemed essential, that have lapsed into a chronic shortage. One of those the company will help make is Hydroxychloroquine. The malaria drug once promoted, and now rejected, as a response to COVID-19.
What the loan will do is speed up Kodak's timeline to market on these new products. It will expand Kodak plants in Rochester, and also in St. Paul, Minnesota. It will mean 300 jobs here, 60 jobs in Minnesota. Another 1,200 current Kodak staffers will also play a role in the new business.
"Today marks a new chapter for Eastman Kodak, which has been a world leader in innovation for over 130 years and has always called Rochester 'home.' In this time of unprecedented challenge, this opportunity will showcase the best of Monroe County and our ability to quickly adapt to the needs of our new economy, even while responding to the COVID-19 crisis. I am excited to see Kodak leading this forward thinking initiative and am confident that our skilled workforce will make it a success," Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said in a statement.
The news has already had a big impact on Wall Street. The company's stock prices jumped 300 percent in early trading.
Kodak says the government took an interest because of some of the infrastructure it already has in place. The company's labs have a 117-megawatt capacity. It also has a de-mineralized water supply required for this kind of work.
"[The] Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce 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. Eastman Kodak Company has long been an important part of the Rochester/Finger Lakes economy, with unique capabilities and intellectual capital that will be put to critical use during this challenging time. I am a lifelong supporter of Kodak and deeply appreciate their incredible impact on Rochester. Today’s announcement reinforces that Kodak continues to add to our economic vitality. We are grateful for the continued leadership of Governor Cuomo, which has allowed New York State to turn the tide against this virus. Greater Rochester Chamber stands ready to assist Eastman Kodak Company and all local organizations as we work together to safely reopen and rebuild," Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy said of the news.
“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 up—both for our community and for our nation," said Congressman Joe Morelle in a statement. “It’s not one without risks, but when people are struggling to afford everyday necessities, the ability to produce ingredients for prescription drugs here at home will provide better access to affordable drugs for millions of Americans. The implications of this are huge—everyday American families should not have to empty their bank account for medicine they need to survive. It is my hope that Kodak can start paving the way to making this a reality for all."
Kodak is also located near an airport and there are more than 2,000 local people already in the pharma business.
“The knowledge, the skilled workforce, and the potential Kodak has to contribute to our society at this time wouldn’t be possible without the significant investment we’ve made in them throughout the years. In my time in state and federal government, Kodak has always contributed to Rochester’s rich history, and today, I see the opportunity for another exciting chapter to begin to unfold," said Morelle.
All of that, according to Kodak, makes for the kind of place this work can get done.