Rochester Gains $15M VC Fund as Kodak Slashes Workforce

January 30, 2004

Nearly every region engaged in building a tech-based economy wants more access to seed and venture capital money. It's particularly useful when your largest employer announces it will lay off up to 23 percent of its workforce – as many as 5,000 people in your community and 15,000 across the globe – during the next three years.

The generous but bittersweet offer came from Eastman Kodak Company last week as it announced the creation of a $15 million economic development fund designed to promote business development and job creation in the greater Rochester region. Kodak currently employs more than 20,000 people in Rochester, a third of its total employment of 64,000 worldwide in 2003.

Kodak will commit $5 million per year for three years to the new Rochester Economic Development Fund, which is targeted at projects having the potential to generate and retain jobs in the Rochester area. The company will work with other businesses, community groups, universities and local government to expand the fund.

Investments made by the fund will take a variety of forms, but will be targeted at projects that hold the promise of job growth. Kodak will work with community leaders to explore a range of potential projects that may include the use of intellectual property or other community assets. In addition, the fund will be used to attract businesses into excess Kodak real estate.

"Our community is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this fund," said Thomas Mooney, chief executive officer of the Rochester Business Alliance. "Just as Kodak is transitioning to a new business model, Rochester will transition to seize opportunities presented by technologies and entrepreneurial ideas. This fund provides a resource to support the entrepreneurial spirit that has distinguished Rochester."

Kodak will continue to invest in the Center of Excellence for Infotonics, a collaborative project between Kodak, Corning Inc., Xerox Corp., and a number of New York universities, with public sector financial support. Kodak has committed $15 million over five years to Infotonics, which is designed to create a platform for new technologies and job creation.

New York