View Full Version : Rochester's Corporate Identity Fades

January 25th, 2004, 04:42 AM
January 25, 2004

As Kodak Sheds Jobs, Rochester's Corporate Identity Fades


ROCHESTER, Jan. 23 — With the news that the region's largest employer would again cut thousands of jobs, the mood here was one of disappointment, but not surprise.

Eastman Kodak said on Thursday that it planned to eliminate up to 15,000 jobs worldwide, including 4,500 jobs in Rochester.

"It's not news to jump up and down about," said Vincent J. Flow, a Kodak employee of 29 years who works as a research scientist. "But those who survive will probably be better off, and the company will be better off."

Many departments held meetings Friday to answer questions employees had about the layoffs, workers said. "I think the overall reaction is people are disheartened," said an administrative assistant who spoke on the condition that she not be named, for fear that it might put her "higher on the list."

"I think they think they're doing what's right for the company," she added. "But it's sad. You don't know what to expect."

Rochester and Kodak were once intertwined, like many upstate cities and their corporate benefactors: Fulton and Nestlι, Schenectady and General Electric, Syracuse and the Carrier Corporation.

Kodak provided not just secure, high-paying jobs, but also its own culture. The city blossomed under its care. "My dad was a Kodak shift worker for 30 years," one man wrote on the online message board of the local newspaper, The Democrat and Chronicle.

"My friends and I played K.P.A.A. softball and basketball," he wrote, referring to the Kodak Park Athletic Association. "Watched movies in the Kodak auditorium. It was a way of life. And those days are gone."

But since the company's and the city's heyday a generation or two ago, they have had to cope with continual layoffs. In recent years, announcements of layoffs, large and small, seem to have come with the regularity of quarterly earnings reports.

Timothy Kelly, a former research chemist, retired in 2002. He put in more than 32 years and did not feel pressured to leave. But in the end, he said he felt as if he were watching "a slow death."

"It's been going on a long time," Mr. Kelly said of the layoffs. "I got to the point where I wanted to leave, so I just waited for a retirement incentive. But some didn't have a choice.

"They've skimmed all the people off the top and they're getting down to the bone now," he added. "It's depressing."

After the newest round of layoffs, which are expected to take place over three years, the film giant might not even be Rochester's largest employer. In 2003, Eastman Kodak had 22,000 employees. Comparatively, the University of Rochester, which includes a large research and health care system under its umbrella, employed 15,600, said Robert Kraus, a university spokesman. At the end of 2003, that number grew to more than 16,040.

After layoffs, Kodak's figures could be around 17,500. "We're obviously very close to being the largest employer," Mr. Kraus said. "I don't think it matters. When you're one of the top employers in a community, it carries a certain responsibility. The health of the institution counts a lot for the health of the community."

While the university has grown some, Mr. Kraus said, its real strength has been its solidity. "We've been steady while other companies have been shrinking."

Rochester has been trying to stay steady, too, but with less success. Migration to the suburbs and economic decline have boosted crime, as in Schenectady and Fulton, which also can no longer count on the patronage of large companies.

Rochester's homicide rate, in particular, has been high for more than a decade. "I don't think this will have a direct impact on violence," said John M. Klofas, a criminal justice professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who has studied local crime patterns for 15 years. "There is some trickle-down effect, but these are high-end jobs."

Others still find reason to hope. Starting this May, a high-speed ferry will make daily trips across Lake Ontario, linking Rochester and Toronto.

City officials say they hope that the ferries will bring tourists.

"I really believe we're going to pull out of this," said Mary E. McCrank, the public relations director at the Susan B. Anthony House, a museum dedicated to the famous suffragist, who lived much of her life here. "Rochesterians don't give up easily. Susan B. Anthony spent her entire life working for the right to vote for women. We'll pull through and be stronger for this."

As for Mr. Flow, he said he was not going to worry about events he cannot change. "The roles are going to be changing," he said, "but the company and the city will always be bonded."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 24th, 2004, 10:06 AM
July 18, 2004

Across Lake Ontario, With Diversions


PEERING over the back of a bright blue armchair, Lucas Coster's eyes sparkled mischievously as he looked around the sleek interior of the Spirit of Ontario, a new high-speed ferry that began service last month.

Did he like the ship, a fellow passenger asked? "Yeah!" the 18-month-old Lucas replied, before taking off at a run down a wide corridor, with his mother, Monica, chasing after him.

But Lucas's father, Robin, wasn't convinced of the trip's value, considering both the price paid and the total time the family spent on the ship, which began traveling between Toronto and Rochester on June 19. The mixed reaction of the Coster family summed up the experience that many passengers had on one trip during the ferry's first week in operation. Universally, people seemed impressed by the appearance and the comfort of the $42.5 million ferry. The 284-foot-long ship sparkles, and with speeds reaching 55 miles an hour, it covers the diagonal route across Lake Ontario in about 2 hours 15 minutes, about 45 minutes faster than driving between the cities.

But the fastest thing about the Spirit of Ontario - also known by its nickname, the Breeze - is the voyage itself. Delays in boarding and departing lengthened the trip considerably, and other parts of the service still needed tweaking during the first week. Repeated phone calls and e-mail messages to the ferry's public relations officers to discuss the problems went unreturned.

The Spirit of Ontario's path to the lake has been anything but smooth.

The ferry is the culmination of a five-year dream of investors in the Canadian American Transportation System. They envisioned the Australian-built ship as a way to spark tourism in Rochester and other upstate New York towns near the ferry's home port, and to cut travel time to Canada's biggest city. But the four-level catamaran, which holds 750 people and 220 cars, launched service nearly a year behind its original schedule.

After the ship arrived in April from its long Australian journey, it smashed into a pier upon docking in New York City, ripping a gash in its side that caused $80,000 in exterior damage. Though the tear was repaired, the incident dashed hopes that the ship could claim bragging rights as the first high-speed car ferry on the Great Lakes. Instead, that distinction went to the Lake Express, a smaller ferry that began traveling from Muskegon, Mich., to Milwaukee in early June.

The Spirit of Ontario and the 192-foot Lake Express, which can carry 250 passengers and 46 cars at speeds up to 40 m.p.h., were both built by the Australian shipmaker Astral. They are kicking off a new fleet of fast ships that are starting service in the United States this year. Another fast ferry is planned sometime this year for the waters off Juneau, Alaska. The diesel-powered ships, like those used in Europe and Asia, mark a new era of transportation for travelers used to lumbering, coal-fired ferries. The last of those ships crossing Lake Ontario from Rochester traveled a shorter route, to Cobourg, Ontario, before ending service in 1950.

But by early indications, the new trip across the lake isn't swift, if one includes the time waiting on either dock. A 10:45 a.m. weekday ferry from Toronto to Rochester on June 25 left 45 minutes late. By the time the ferry arrived, it was 2 p.m., an hour late; 30 minutes more were needed for passengers to clear customs.

That was manageable for the Coster family, from Toronto, which was traveling to Rochester en route to Boston, where Monica Coster planned to compete in a national Frisbee tournament. They arrived for boarding about 9:30 a.m., five hours before they would clear border inspections at the end of the trip, in Rochester. But the shipboard journey gave Lucas a chance to run around and perhaps tire himself out so that he would sleep during the seven-hour trip that lay ahead, his father said. "We wanted to minimize our stuck-in-the-car time," Mr. Coster said.

On board, passengers spent ample time exploring the ship, which is 78 feet wide. Those who board on foot enter on the second deck, while those who come by car take the stairs or an elevator after they have parked below.

They are greeted by a color scheme of bright blue, tan and lots of glistening chrome. Comfortable armchairs are placed in long rows along either side of the ship. Groups of chairs face each other, with tables in between, allowing passengers to spread out books, cameras, binoculars and food.

The main passenger level, called the Upper Deck, has several walk-up cafes, with all manner of breakfast and lunch items, ranging from muffins and yogurt to burgers and salads, and beverages. The food, like hot dogs ($3, United States currency) and pizza ($2 a slice) seemed of average institutional quality. Many family groups brought picnic baskets and coolers stocked with their own refreshments.

On the third level, the Bridge Deck, was a business-class section. There, passengers sat on low leather couches with squat tables in between, or at banquettes with tiny cocktail tables. Food, served by waiters, arrived promptly on blue and white china.

Menu items included a cheese omelet ($4), French toast ($6) and cereal ($2.50). Coffee ($2 for a large cup) and cappuccino ($3) were served in cups and saucers. Though it was far too early for dinner, the Spirit of Ontario menu promised choices like chicken parmesan ($11.95) and pork tenderloin ($14.75).

The business-class section takes up half the deck. The other side is a standard coach section, with the same blue chairs as downstairs - actually more comfortable than the stylish business-class seats.

Dozens of people gathered on deck to watch the ship glide away from its dock in Toronto, the city's skyline in full view. But they didn't stay long. The ship's speed, coupled with strong winds, drove most passengers inside during the morning voyage, save for some die-hard smokers who sat, drinks in hand, as the wind ruffled their hair. (The rest of the boat is smoke-free.)

A popular place for viewing was the vast Panorama Lounge, right over the bow, with picture windows from floor to ceiling. There, groups of travelers chatted excitedly, watching the water parted by the ferry, whose voyage was smooth on a clear though windy day.

Others sat at tables, reading or working on computers. (The business-class lounge has more-private carrels with desks and electrical connections.) Ceilings and corners throughout the ship are dotted with 38 satellite televisions, most of which were tuned to Fox News, CNN or CNBC.

Susan Budrakey, a financial planner from Syracuse, was traveling back to New York State after a business meeting in Toronto, where she goes regularly for seminars. Normally, she would cross the border at Lewiston, outside Buffalo, then drive to Toronto, she said, a trip that takes about four hours, plus time for the border crossing.

Given that she had arrived 90 minutes before the trip, without a reservation, taking the ferry did not reduce the total amount of time she spent traveling, Ms. Budrakey said. (Passengers had to guess how much time to give themselves to board, because there is nothing on the ferry's Web site to advise them.) And the one-way fare - $60 total for her and her car - was more than tolls or gasoline, she added, meaning she wasn't likely to use the ferry frequently. But, she said, "it isn't about time or money. It's about a different experience."

Amenities onboard include two movie theaters, one on either side of the ship, with flat screens mounted on the wall in front of rows of armchairs. Films during a recent voyage included "Scooby Doo 2" and "The Johnson Family Vacation."

There is a small playroom, stocked with books and child-sized tables and chairs. A concierge handed out dozens of maps and brochures on area attractions, as well as helpful directions (his advice on the quickest route to the New York State Thruway was absolutely right).

Across from his desk was a small duty-free shop, stocked with liquor, T-shirts, chocolates and toiletries. Here, as with the cafes, Canadian passengers got an uncomfortable surprise. Although the ship's brochures state that both American and Canadian currency is accepted on board, cashiers on this voyage were accepting only United States dollars - in cash.

In Rochester, where the Spirit of Ontario embarks and arrives from a handsome brick terminal, the ship is a far bigger deal than it is on the other side of the lake. One reason may be that commuter ferries and cruise ships offering journeys on Lake Ontario were already plentiful in Toronto, long before the Spirit of Ontario came on the scene. The fast ferry does not even dock in the city's scenic Harbourfront area, dotted with outdoor cafes and parks. It uses the Port of Toronto, an industrial site about a mile east, where the ferry puts in next to high stacks of metal containers and piles of gravel.

In Toronto, the trip's organizers still had a lot to sort out during their first week of operation. There was no sign for the ferry, and though foot passengers were allowed to board as soon as they arrived, motorists sat in line until 11:15 a.m., a half-hour past the scheduled departure. It then took 15 minutes more to load all the cars. Ferry crew members, though friendly, offered no explanations for the delays.

But the smooth journey and many distractions helped to soothe the grumbling. About an hour before arriving in Rochester, the ship's staff circulated with stacks of customs cards, the same as those distributed to passengers on international flights. There was plenty of time to fill out the cards before the Spirit of Ontario glided into Rochester's port, escorted by a Coast Guard cutter. The ship's crew asked passengers not to crowd the exits, and many remained in their seats while the boat was secured. Again, those on foot fared better than those who drove. Motorists found themselves stuck in line for half an hour to clear immigration, with only two booths open for cars.

Leaving the boat, the Costers said they weren't sure they would do it again. "This all has to work in with your day, or it's not worth it," said Mr. Coster, who had traveled on a similar ferry in Greece, with fewer glitches.

But Monica Coster, who had spent the morning reading to Lucas in the playroom and watching him happily trot the corridors, seemed to be leaning in favor of a repeat trip. "It gets pretty challenging with a toddler in the car," she said.

MICHELINE MAYNARD is a business reporter for The New York Times.

August 6th, 2004, 07:39 PM
Am terribly dissatisfied with Kodak. I have consistently purchased Kodak products because: 1. their quality was excellent, and 2. their products were made in the U.S. This has changed!

The other day, I purchased a Kodak disposable camera. I opened up the package and -- to my surprise -- found it labelled "MADE IN CHINA." Had I known this ahead of time, I would not have bought it! So, Kodak cuts jobs in Rochester to allow some slave laborers in China to make its products?! This was done to raise the corporate bottom line, rather than to lower the cost of the disposable camera. I have nothing against profit, folks, but I DO have a problem with sending my dollars to a communist country that (not too many years ago) decided it was OK to slaughter kids with tanks and machine guns.

What's going to happen when Chinese manufacturers decide they no longer want to stay in the wholesale business? The answer: there will be no more Kodak. The technology, the know-how, and the manufacturing will be there instead of in Rochester.

TLOZ Link5
August 11th, 2004, 01:30 AM
The race to the bottom continues...

September 13th, 2004, 07:37 PM
From the 9/12/04 Democrat and Chronical... can anyone sing "Monorail"?

As ferry sits idle, its bills pile up

Rick Armon
Staff writer
As Canadian American Transportation Systems and leaders of Rochester and Toronto work to get the $42 million Spirit of Ontario sailing again, answers to what went wrong with the high-speed ferry are hard to find, though facts are emerging.

Less than three months after making its maiden passenger voyage across Lake Ontario, the ship now sits idle in the Genesee River alongside the $16 million ferry terminal built with taxpayer money. CATS shut down service without warning Tuesday, citing a $1.7 million debt.

The shutdown has left the private Rochester-based company — which received millions in city, state and federal aid — caught in a public relations nightmare. Mostly, people demand to know why the business sank so quickly, especially after CATS announced that about 140,000 passengers rode the ferry in 80 days.

Asger Manoe, for one, isn't surprised. "They don't seem to have any money at all," he said.

Manoe speaks from experience. A Denmark resident, he helped bring the ship from Australia to Rochester and then helped train the local captains. He is among vendors who say they haven't been paid.

"I really feel sorry for Rochester and for all the good people over there who believed that this would give the area a kick," said Manoe, now back in Denmark. "There is a lot of people to blame, and I would blame CATS for being unrealistic in their expectations and overselling the project to the public."

The promise and expectations of the ferry were evident April 27, when the Spirit of Ontario pulled into the Port of Rochester for the first time.

Hundreds — some say thousands — of people lined both sides of the Genesee River to greet the ship after its journey from an Australian shipyard. Some waved flags, and the Rochester Yacht Club serenaded the ship — the community's newest tourist attraction and potential answer to its economic doldrums — with a cannon salute.

Behind all of that excitement, Manoe said that there were too many top managers and that money was wasted.

"It's difficult to know what is going to happen, but be sure they will never start again, and The Breeze will leave Rochester within a few months," he said, using the ferry's nickname. "It's impossible to start again because nobody will trust new owners."

He is among those who helped bring the Spirit of Ontario to Rochester, only to have a falling out with CATS.

Bills come due

Manoe said he never got paid the $6,283 he is owed for his work. Manoe, who supplied the Democrat and Chronicle with copies of e-mails back and forth demanding his money, doesn't expect to ever see that cash. Others are wondering, too.

CATS owes the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots' Association $26,000 for pilot services, or more than a week's worth. The company also owes about $25,000 to the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority in Cornwall, Ontario.

"We're taking steps to protect our position," said Ron Jacobs, controller with the Seaway Pilots' Association. "We're looking at possibly filing a lien if we have to."

Robert Lemire, chief executive officer of the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, said his agency has been unable to contact CATS about the outstanding bill.

CATS also owes money to Hornblower Marine Services Inc., an Indiana-based company that helps run marine operations.

Hornblower and CATS parted ways about two weeks ago, with several workers from both companies saying it was because CATS couldn't pay its bills.

But Hornblower President John Waggoner and CATS President Cornel Martin said the relationship ended because CATS no longer needed the marine company's help.

"I guess without going into lengthy detail, HMS is no longer involved in the operation of the Spirit of Ontario, and we left on good terms," said Waggoner, who declined to say how much the company is owed. Martin said CATS is paying installments.

Frank McKeown, president of Corporate 800 in Tampa, Fla., a telecommunications company, said CATS owes his company $16,000. Corporate 800 handled overflow telephone calls for the ferry company in July and August.

"We pulled their chestnuts out of the fire," McKeown said, referring to customer complaints about getting through to CATS. He said the company has not responded to calls or letters.

Martin disputes McKeown's claim. CATS was unhappy with Corporate 800's service, believes it was overcharged and is challenging the bill, Martin said.

For its part, CATS says the ferry fell victim to issues outside its control, including a highly publicized accident and government regulations.

The company's primary lender, Netherlands-based bank ABN Amro, has not returned calls for comment. Another financial backer, the Australia-based Export Finance and Insurance Corp., initially didn't know the service had shut down.

Officials of Export Finance and Insurance will be in Toronto and Rochester over the next two weeks to talk with the company and city leaders.

"It's a sad thing for Rochester if it closes down," said Henry S. Stewart of Greece, who has ridden on the ferry. "It was nice to see us connected with the city of Toronto."

But even if the ship does resume sailing, there is concern that public confidence has been eroded so much that no one will want to ride it again.

Business plan faulted

CATS' business plan has come under severe attack since the ferry shut down.

The company wanted to draw its core passengers from a pool of 9.6 million people living in the "Golden Horseshoe" — a region that runs from Ontario, Canada, through Rochester to Syracuse. The voyage was sold to the public as a vacation — a ride on a cruise ship as opposed to a ferry.

Eighty-five percent of its business was supposed to be leisure travelers, with the rest business and commercial traffic.

Documents given to the State Infrastructure Bank in 2002 showed that CATS expected 662,956 passengers to ride the ship in its first year — only 42 percent of its capacity. The company expected to carry 159,777 cars, 4,067 tour buses and 12,202 trucks in the first year.

Even before the ferry sailed, skeptics called those numbers too optimistic.

But it has been the series of problems since the ferry started operation that has given critics ammunition.

CATS has complained that it was not allowed to carry commercial trucks, it had to pay Canadian customs fees, that pilot fees were higher than expected and that no permanent terminal has been built in Toronto for the ferry.

The U.S. and Canadian governments reneged on promises, it says — an allegation that government officials deny.

But the bottom line, critics say, is that these issues weren't resolved before the service started.

"I do not take that as a sign of good management," said Bob Barbato, an associate professor of management and the director of the Small Business Institute at Rochester Institute of Technology's College of Business.

Indeed, a February 2001 proposal submitted to the city indicated the company expected to pay about $875,000 a year in Canadian customs fees.

"CATS does anticipate the payment of additional service fees related to Canadian customs and immigrations but will seek federal or provincial funding to reduce or eliminate that cost," the document says.

Ferry's successes

CATS and its supporters point to the 140,000 passengers who rode the ferry in less than three months to show that the business can be successful.

A lack of passengers wasn't a reason for shutting down the service, the company said. But can the ferry recover from this round of bad publicity? Many believe it can.

"As far as the public is concerned, people are still going to be excited about it," said Wendy Wright, professor of public administration at the State University College at Brockport.

Barbato agreed.

"The answer is almost always yes, you can recover from these things," he said.

"But every time that you demonstrate an inability to follow through on expectations and promises, you don't just lose customers but you position yourself for future dissatisfaction when even little things go wrong."