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Strength in numbers

At home, Eastman Kodak Co. discloses plans to lay off 6,300 people–part of a downsizing that has grown from 10,000 to 16,600 jobs in a little more than a month.
Abroad, the Asian financial crisis threatens to knock the wind out of the global economy.
No question, the business outlook on the eve of 1998 is more unsettled than it has been in some time. This is particularly true in Rochester, where Kodak’s cuts come on top of work-force reductions announced by Bausch & Lomb Inc. earlier in the year.
Yet anxiety about the future should be kept in perspective. Even with the troubles at Kodak and Bausch & Lomb, the local economy seems quite sturdy–unemployment is at a relatively low level, and many companies are expanding.
Indeed, some businesses are growing at a rapid rate. The Sutherland Group Ltd., for example, estimates its work force will finish 1997 up from 600 in January to some 2,500.
Employees who are losing their jobs at some of Rochester’s biggest companies could help ease one of the toughest problems facing small and midsize firms: finding skilled candidates to fill openings.
What the next year brings for companies like Kodak and Bausch & Lomb remains to be seen. Both have taken painful steps to regain competitiveness, but they face tough rivals and uncertain markets.
For Kodak, the toughest challenge might be restoring the faith and energy of a work force that has suffered a series of hard psychological blows and that faces the prospect of ongoing job insecurity.
Kodak today is much more focused and well-positioned financially than it was when George Fisher took the reins four years ago, but morale might be at an all-time low.
Dean Charles Plosser noted at the annual forecast luncheon hosted by the University of Rochester’s William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration that the local economy has handled adversity well in the past. There is every reason to believe it will negotiate future straits in similar fashion.
The key is the ability of small and midsize companies to generate jobs and profits, bolstering the foundation of a solid local economy.
–Rochester Business Journal


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