A decade ago, Eastman Kodak Co. and Xerox Corp. employed 38,750 area workers. Today that number has dropped by more than half, with the two biggest members of the traditional Big Three employing a total of 15,430 local workers.
The downsizing of Kodak and Xerox ranked No. 1 in a recent RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll, in which readers were asked to choose the top business story of the decade.
Of the nearly 550 respondents, 18 percent picked the employment drop at two of Rochester’s largest employers. Ranked second was the impact of state and local taxes, with 12 percent choosing that as the top local business story for the first decade of this century.
The growing importance of the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology ranked sixth in the readers’ tally, getting 8 percent of the vote. Midtown ranked eighth with 5 percent of the vote.
While readers chose the drop in local employment at Kodak and Xerox as the top story, some noted on the bright side the rise of academic institutions such as UR and RIT.
The growth of Wegmans garnered 3 percent of readers’ votes as the top story.
Roughly 550 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Dec. 14 and 15.
In your view, which ONE of the following was the top local business news story of the decade?
Downsizing of Kodak and Xerox: 18 percent
Impact of state and local taxes: 12 percent
Financial crisis/recession and its local impact: 10 percent
Failure of the fast ferry: 9 percent
Decline of the manufacturing sector: 8 percent
Growing economic importance of UR and RIT: 8 percent
Health care costs’ relentless rise: 6 percent
Closing of Midtown Plaza; plans for the site: 5 percent
Renaissance Square project abandoned: 5 percent
Outmigration of young people: 4 percent
Impact of digital technology on Kodak, Gannett and other firms: 4 percent
Wegmans Food Markets’ growth: 3 percent
Local economic impact of 9/11: 2 percent
Paetec’s growth as a public company: 1 percent
Growth of Constellation Brands and Finger Lakes wine region: 1 percent
Global Crossing bankruptcy: 1 percent
ESL building $50 million headquarters downtown: 1 percent
Bausch & Lomb acquired, goes private: 1 percent
ESL building $50 headquarters downtown: 1 percent
High Falls Brewing sold to KPS Capital Partners: 1 percent
Here are some readers’ comments:
The onerous tax base, which has gone far beyond what anyone would have thought to be reasonable at the beginning of this decade, will surely serve to ruin the prospects of this area for many decades to come. The sad fact is that at the rate we are going, 10 years from now we will be wishing for this level of taxation.
—Joe Fabetes, Rochester
Taxes and fees at the state and national level have a negative impact on our areas ability to compete. If this issue is not addressed by reduced spending this area will only have a tougher time competing.
—Mike Hanna, H.P. Neun
Of the 20 choices, four are positive, ESL, UR-RIT, Constellation and Wegmans. B&L and Paetec are looking positive so far. High Falls/KPS got so many tax breaks, investigative reporting should follow that money trail. The RG&E transaction should have been illegal to put our energy concerns into the hands of a foreign entity. Again, follow the money. So, that means 14 out of 20 are negative. THAT should be the top story of the decade!
I am partial. I live in the Finger Lakes area. The other stories are either bad news or too political.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
Wegmans has been a topic of many business-magazine articles, well before it became one of the best companies to work for, or one of the most innovative grocery companies in the world, so they will continue to be the top business news story. I say this, somewhat wishfully thinking that we need to promote the positive aspects of the Rochester business community, not continue harping on the negative, which is somewhat the trend of all of the other options. I don’t think wine will be as big a story, nor do I believe that Paetec will be as big a story going forward as it has been. Wegmans: How do you live without it?
—Hutch Hutchison, In T’Hutch Ltd.
The stunning reductions in our core businesses would not have been believed if anyone had predicted it in 1999. The only bright spot in the decade has been the explosive growth and importance of the U of R and RIT as drivers for economic development.
—Dana Miller, City Council
The top business news story of the decade must be the emergence of the UR and RIT as dominant employers and drivers of the economy. The UR and RIT are also the driving forces behind innovation and entrepreneurship which are the future of the Rochester Area. It used to be "As Kodak and Xerox go, so goes Rochester." Now it’s "As the UofR and RIT go, so goes Rochester.
—Clifford Jacobson, WebHomeUSA.com