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Kodak in White City adds 35 jobs

WHITE CITY — The soaring sales of Eastman Kodak's DryView X-ray film have sparked a flurry of hiring at the company's Rogue Valley plant.

Since the beginning of the year, Kodak has added about 35 full-time employees at the health imaging plant, boasting its work force by nearly 10 percent. The company plans to add another 15 full-time positions by year end, raising its full- and part-time employment here to nearly 400.

The new hires are part of a $30 million expansion the company announced last year, according to plant manager Brian Melchiori. While the majority of the expansion is equipment, the plant has added production and support workers to run that new machinery.

The expansion, which will continue in phases until late 2001, is expected to more than double the plant's capacity to make DryView, its primary product.

DryView is an X-ray film that captures digital images from medical tests such as MRIs, ultrasounds and CT scans.

The exposed film is developed without putting it through a wet chemical process. Instead, the developing agents are applied when the film is made and health imagers in hospitals and clinics spit out film sheets much like laser printers do.

The White City plant began producing DryView in 1996, when it was owned by 3M. The plant's employment has swelled by more than 100 as demand for the product has grown, Melchiori said. The latest expansion and wave of hiring is simply the company's continued effort to meet that demand.

And demand for DryView appears likely to continue growing. Kodak said it's briskly selling the health imagers that use the film. In both the fourth quarter of 1999 and the first quarter of 2000, the company set records for number of imagers placed in health-care facilities. In the first quarter of this year, the number of new systems placed grew 82 percent, the company said.

In November, Kodak secured a multi-year contract to provide DryView imaging systems and film to Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest health maintenance organization. Under the deal, the systems and the film become the standard for Kaiser facilities nationwide.

DryView is part of Kodak's health imaging division, which reported sales of $526 million and profits of $115 million in the first quarter of 2000.

In 1999, the division's sales topped $2 billion, up 39 percent from 1998. Much of that increased was tied to Kodak's acquisition of Imation's health imaging division in late 1998, which included the White City plant.