ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The purchase of Xerox, historically one of the Big Three drivers of the Rochester economy, by none other than Fuji, Kodak's Japanese counterpart which itself for decades was looked upon as one of the region's rivals, is anything but a copy of past struggles.
An initial concern was local jobs, then the overall health of the once-indestructable photocopier giant.
"My first reaction when I saw the headlines this morning, was concern. I saw the potential of job cuts," said Bob Duffy, Chamber of Commerce CEO. "I have spoken to a high-ranking Xerox official. We have great relationships with the company, and it has been reinforced to me that this really appears to be a positive move for Xerox."
Now with a 50.1 percent stake in Xerox, Fujifilm Holdings plans to cut costs in its new Fuji Xerox venture, an $18 billion company. Fujifilm seeks to cut 10,000 jobs by 2020, mostly in Asia, as part of a broader reorganization. For its part, Xerox states there will be no immediate impact on local jobs.
Xerox was founded in 1906 as the Haloid Photographic Company, which originally manufactured photographic paper and equipment. In 1938, physicist Chester Carlson invented a process for printing images using a metal plate and dry powder toner. It would take 20-plus of refinement before the first automated machine to make copies was commercialized.
The company came to prominence in 1959 with the introduction of the Xerox 914. The first plain-paper-photocopier caused revenues to leap to $500 million by the mid-60s, but in 1975, Xerox resolved an anti-trust suit that resulted in the forced licensing of Xerox's patent portfolio to Japanese competitors. Within four years, Xerox's share of the U.S. copier market dropped from nearly 100 percent to less than 14 percent.
Xerox was never the same, moving its headquarters to Connecticut, splitting off into more focused companies, and just last week, announcing all remaining employees at the Xerox Square skyscraper downtown would soon work out of its Webster campus, leaving the looming tower empty.
Thousands still work for Xerox locally, and much more in the Rochester area have retired or moved on, always asking, what happened?
"Some of the past CEOs were very big on not just customer-focus but employee-focus and over the years as Xerox has made changes and tried to become lean and more profitable and some of that has eroded," said Jenny Slaughter, a former employee of 32 years.
Investors took the the news well with Xerox shares increasing by more than 4 percent. By closing bell shares spiked by $1.44, to close at $34.13 — that is a 52-week high. Nearly 18 million shares traded hands Wednesday, nine times the average daily volume.
Discussion about the merger is prompting questions about one of Rochester's signature events, but the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival will maintain its name. A festival spokesperson says Xerox's contract to be the namesake sponsor continues for another couple years.
This year's nine-day concert festival runs from June 22nd to the 30th. Tickets are on sale for several of the headliners.