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Kodak, the 131-year-old photography pioneer, filed for bankruptcy on January 19th 2012.Eastman Kodak announced early this morning that filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy was “the right thing to do for the future” of the company.In a statement, Kodak CEO Antonio Perez said company leadership decided the move was “a necessary step.”Innovation Trail has followed the story over the course of 2012.

Manufacturing forum ponders "a new Kodak"

High Tech Rochester and Kodak teamed up on Tuesday for a manufacturing forum at Kodak's Eastman Business Park. The goal was to help local firms "connect the dots" with resources that can spark innovation.

The primary "dot" on display: Eastman Business Park itself.

The place to "scale up"

Mike Alt is the director of Eastman Business Park (EBP). And if you're a local tech firm looking to take it to the next level, then he has a pitch for you:

"If you're looking for pure life sciences, we're not the place," says Alt. "If you're looking for clean technology - so, renewable energy, solar, batteries, fuel cells, those types of technologies - we have the equipment and the technology to help you commercialize it."

Alt says that's what Tuesday's event was all about - spreading the word about the resources in the Rochester area that small to midsize manufacturers should take advantage of.

"People don't know where to go to get the help and assistance to develop their companies from the 'proof of concept' into the commercial stage," says Alt. "This [forum] makes those opportunities known to them."

The forum - named "Innovation ... What, How, Right Now!" - featured a keynote from an innovation expert, a panel discussion with industry professionals and an open house with companies that have availed themselves of EBP resources. One of the companies on display was Cerion Energy.

For the 200 people who showed up, there were even prearranged tours of what the sprawling Eastman Business Park has to offer.

Rising up from the ashes

Hutch Hutchison of High Tech Rochester organized the forum. He says partnering with Kodak to put on the event made a lot of sense.

"[They are] why this innovative DNA exists in this region - companies like Kodak, Bausch + Lomb, Xerox," says Hutchison. "Now that they're downsizing, that DNA hasn't gone away. People just need to know how to juice it up."

Given the many assets the company has, Hutchison says Kodak can play a key role in kickstarting manufacturing innovation in the Rochester area - especially since many of those assets are laying idle.

"I would say more or less Kodak has an opportunity to become a phoenix," says Hutchison.

Hutchison says Kodak is "not burned out yet," but that during its tumultuous transformation it has the opportunity to become something more:

"A new Kodak that isn't necessarily recognized as Kodak," Hutchison explains. "But this community will know the businesses that grew from Kodak technology, from Kodak assets, from Kodak expertise."

WXXI/Finger Lakes reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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