Kodak to keep business in Kettering

400 jobs saved in decision

Eastman Kodak is retaining its Prosper inkjet business, which means the business unit and its 400 jobs will remain in Kettering, the company said Friday.

“There are no plans to move the business from Kettering,” a spokesman for the Rochester, N.Y.-based company said.

The company said the unit performed well enough in 2016 to justify keeping it.

“This is a pragmatic decision given the improvements in the business and the offers received,” Jeff Clarke, Kodak chief executive, said in a statement. “Prosper performed well in 2016 with a 40 percent increase in annuity sales for the full year.”

Kodak said Friday that Randy Vandagriff — whom the company said has played an key role in the development of “Ultrastream,” it’s latest inkjet technology, and Kodak’s digital print business — will become president of the Enterprise Inkjet Systems division effective in May.

In an interview with this news outlet, Vandagriff said that about a year ago Kodak had received unsolicited bids for the Prosper business, and the company’s board put the unit on the market to explore other offers.

But as the year unfolded, the business enjoyed a good year and solid growth.

“The business became more valuable, I would say,” Vandagriff said.

Kodak Chief Financial Officer David Bullwinkle said in the company’s announcement that there had been “strong interest” in the inkjet business, but added: “The range of consideration did not reflect the value of the business today.”

Also, Kodak leaders saw that the interest in the company’s Ultrastream technology was very high, he said.

Prosper is built on stream printing technology, which is the Kettering site’s specialty, Vandagriff said. Ultrastream is the next-generation extension of that technology, he said.

Kodak is going to market it differently, searching for original equipment manufacturing partners to incorporate Ultrastream into their own processes and equipment.

“We see this business growing and continuing to grow,” Vandagriff said of Ultrastream.

There were no overtures or incentive offers from the state of Ohio or the city of Kettering to help the company make this decision, Vandagriff said.

Kodak’s CEO said the company expects its Enterprise Inkjet Systems division to be profitable this year.

About 400 people work at Kodak’s office and labs at the Miami Valley Research Park and a major part of its business there has been the Prosper inkjet program. The site is Kodak’s largest operation outside of its headquarters in Rochester.

Gregg Gorsuch, development director for the city of Kettering, said Kodak did a “nice job” of keeping city administration apprised during the sale process. The company had told city officials that the Prosper inkjet business was doing well.

“Kodak has been a great corporate citizen for us for many years, and it looks like that will continue,” he said.

A “town hall” meeting with Kettering employees was planned for Friday, Vandagriff said.

Eastman Kodak Co.

Local employees: 400

2016 net earnings:$16 million, an improvement of $91 million over 2015.

Prosper inkjet business: In 2016, Prosper revenue grew by 6 percent and a net loss decreased by $11 million due to lower depreciation, better deal quality on presses and 40 percent revenue growth in annuities.

Source: Kodak

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