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TheStreet Open House

Rochester's Rise Amid Kodak's Demise

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There are literally miles of Kodak's old industrial complex, which includes dormant factories, a power plant, a water treatment system and waste facilities, in addition to a private railroad, that are playing a part in Rochester's move beyond its corporate benefactor.

Eastman Business Park, once the world's largest manufacturing facility and still among the global elite, stands out as an expression of Rochester's ascendance amid Kodak's decline.

The company demolished more than 100 buildings and sold or spun off many of its old business divisions, but shrinking Kodak is selling and leasing for commercial and industrial use more than 2.5 million square feet of existing facility space and more than 300 acres of developable land, according to the park's Web site.

The park's occupants include more than 45 companies and at least 4,500 non-Kodak employees, according to the Rochester Business Alliance. One of its largest occupants is Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, which employs approximately 1,150 people at its Rochester location.

Eastman Business Park Director Michael Alt and Kodak spokesman Chris Verdona declined to comment about the office park, but others in Rochester's business community said it's a great fit for the city's growing high-tech manufacturing sector.

For starters, the complex is self-sufficient and has the capacity for optics and imaging companies as well as medical devices. Carestream Health (a former Kodak property) produces medical film and digital imaging solutions. Optimation designs, fabricates, installs and maintains manufacturing systems. Cerion Energy works in the space of nanotechnology. These businesses were able to move into the business park with much of the infrastructure already in place for their highly specialized sectors.

Bill Pollock, age 65 and founder of Optimation, works in the park and has current and former ties to Kodak.

A slim man, with a square frame and silver hair, he said he started the company by himself in Rochester in 1984. Pollock worked at Kodak for 11 years, which is a short amount of time compared to other former employees interviewed by TheStreet who worked there 20 years, 30 years or more.

When asked if he would call himself a Kodak employee who became an entrepreneur, Pollock chuckled and said he was an entrepreneur who worked at Kodak a little while. Optimation was Pollock's idea, but he said Kodak's training and once-hefty endorsement for research and development in disruptive technology influenced him and his company.

Coincidentally, Pollock has now entered into an agreement with Kodak to produce touch-screen sensors by licensing the former photographic filmmaker's silver halide technology.

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