A little more than a year after unveiling plans for a $10 million expansion of its Kodak plant in Columbus, the company has scheduled a ribbon-cutting event Aug. 7 to show it off.
Rochester, N.Y.-based Eastman Kodak Co. said Wednesday there will be invitation-only tours at the 1 Polychrome Parkway facility starting at 10 a.m. that day. The plant is located inside Corporate Ridge Business Park in east Columbus.
“This expansion will bring manufacturing of the popular Kodak Sonora Process Free Plate to the U.S. for the first time, helping deliver what customers need, when they need it ... while creating local jobs and strengthening our longstanding ties to the Columbus community,” the company said via email from Jackson Connell, who is with its public relations firm, Lois Paul and Partners.
Kodak said demand for its Sonora plates have “skyrocketed” amid the trend toward environmentally friendly printing. It said printers using Sonora plates don’t require water, chemicals and the energy typically needed to process them. They also do the job without losing the quality that traditional printing plates offer.
The local plant also is certified in manufacturing lithographic printing plates from sheet aluminum, a process that includes electrochemical etching, surface treatment and solvent-based coating processes, according to the Kodak website. Printers and publishers are among the customers who use the plates.
As the expansion was announced in April 2014, the Columbus facility employed just over 200, with the new high-speed line expected to add about 40 more jobs. No update to the workforce number was available.
Last October, the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce honored Kodak with an “Economic Development Project of the Year” award, saying the expansion showed the company’s commitment to remaining in Columbus and growing its work force.
The local facility will supply customers throughout the Americas with the Sonora plates, Kodak said. Plants in Osterode, Germany, Xiamen, China and Leeds, United Kingdom also manufacture the Sonora product.
Kodak for decades was a photography giant best known for its cameras, 35mm film and printing paper. But it was forced to change its business model with the advent of digital cameras and the Internet.
The Columbus operation, however, has survived the transition, with a $15 million expansion completed here in February 2009. That project added 26,000 square feet to the plant, giving it a total of 276,000 square feet.
In 2011, the local facility added more space to manufacture advanced digital printing plates. The cost for the building alone was nearly $4 million. At that time, Kodak employed just over 300 people here. But there has been a gradual downsizing to the current level.
A publicly traded company, Eastman Kodak in May reported a first-quarter net loss of $54 million, worse than its $34 million loss in the same period of 2014. That was on sales of $427 million, down from about $488 million in the first quarter a year ago. The good news, particularly for Columbus, is that volume for the firm’s Sonora plates jumped 94 percent year over year, the firm said.
Kodak shares (Ticker: KODK) tumbled 53 cents, or 3 percent, to close at $17.11 in trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. That closing price is off sharply from the nearly $30 per share the stock was trading at as the Columbus expansion was being announced in late April 2014.