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Kodak plant spared cuts

WHITE CITY - Cutting-edge technology has once again allowed one of the Rogue Valley's top manufacturing operations to avoid widespread layoffs announced by its corporate headquarters.

Eastman Kodak Co. officials on Wednesday said the company will eliminate between 3,500 and 4,000 jobs by the end of the year. Combined with job cuts announced in April, the Rochester, N.Y.-based film and imaging firm will lose a total of 6,500 to 7,500 workers, or up to 9 percent of its 78,000 employee work force this year.

But Kodak's White City plant, producing primarily DryView medical imaging film, will be largely untouched.

"It's the same situation as in April," plant manager Brian Melchiori said. "We're producing a digital product and it's still in a pretty strong growth mode. At this point, we're not anticipating any reduction in head count. However, we are having to take a hard look at additional (personnel) adds. We're not specifically in a hiring mode other than when replacing due to retirements."

Melchiori said employment at the 35-year-old plant is at a historic high of 400 workers.

"We've just completed a two-year, $35 million capacity expansion this month," said Melchiori, who has overseen operations since 1998. "There is a continuing increase in demand for medical imaging film."

The nearest Kodak plant is in Fort Collins, Colo., where photographic paper and conventional X-ray film is produced.

Kodak reported a 77 percent decline in its third-quarter profit on Wednesday as weak sales continued to plague the company. It also said that fourth-quarter earnings may fall far below analysts' estimates.

The company expects pretax savings from severance and other moves of about $400 million to $450 million in 2002.

"Today's economic times are as challenging as any that Kodak and other U.S. companies have faced in recent decades," Daniel Carp, Kodak's chairman and chief executive, said in a prepared statement. "We are committed to ensuring that Kodak is as financially strong as possible once we emerge from this period of economic contraction. Being fiscally responsible today is the best long-term course of action that we can take."

Kodak posted net income of $96 million, or 33 cents a share, compared with $418 million, or $1.36 a share, in the year-earlier period.

The company reported that health imaging sales were little changed at $545 million. But earnings from operations declined 64 percent to $51 million, reflecting declining sales of traditional products as well as pricing pressures and operational issues that combined to reduce profit margins. But sales outside the U.S. showed modest growth for the quarter.

Kodak's stock rebounded from a sharp drop earlier in the day's trading to close at 30.71.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail