ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Kodak CEO Jim Continenza spoke with News 8 anchor Adam Chodak following Tuesday’s big announcement.
MORE | Kodak lands $765M federal loan to develop prescription drug ingredients, aims to add 300 jobs in Rochester
Adam Chodak: How did this happen?
Jim Continenza: When the pandemic happened, I pulled my team together and I said what can we do to help America because like it or not we’re in the same ecosystem, what can we do? What’s good for everyone? From there we realized we could make hand sanitizer, the active ingredients for it. Then what else could we do? We could make face shields. We started doing that and actually shipping it to some of our customers. We started making ESTAR shields with ESTAR film and then we started doing PCB boards for the ventilators for one of the large automotive manufacturers.
And from there we asked the team, what else can we do? We had been making (key starting materials) for drugs, but not on a large scale. So I asked what can we do at our facility. We had the training, we had the knowledge, we had know-how, we had the park, the rail, the utilities, we have the water, we have the land, I could keep going right? We got connected to the White House and we said we’re trying to bring pharmaceuticals back. We all realized how broken the supply chain was when this happened – across the board – for ventilators, for masks, you saw that. So we realized that and so did they and they helped us to kind of direct us.
The DFC, I call them a translator, we’re a business, they’re government, we don’t speak the same language and they were the translator and they made it really simple for us to understand and navigate through it and Dr. Navarro does not take enough credit for what he did. He’s the one who was like, ‘can you do this, get to the point, get it done, bye.’ This was literally two months ago that’s how fast this has been moving, but it was every day. Once you’re in, you’re in. I was joking, we were given five days by Dr. Navarro, he calls it Trump Time, and I learned what that is to get this done and we did it in four because I said Trump Time is five, we’re going to do better, we have to do better and my team did and it was amazing.
We had to bring in some consultants, then we had another round, same thing, a couple weekends of no sleep because everything comes on a Thursday and Friday we learned and we have a company to run also and it happened this quick. And then last Tuesday we came up and some folks from Adam’s group (DFC CEO Adam Boehler) saw the facility and they met some of the employees and they saw, a look at the dedication with what these guys can do and we were given the green light. This is real time we’re talking. Wednesday we’re like ‘OK, we’re going to do this’ and here we are today. So Friday to now and all those gentlemen cleared their calendars to come up here. And that tells you something about the commitment.
Governor Cuomo isn’t here and I feel bad about that because he has been nothing but helpful to this company, so have Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, but Senator Schumer from the very beginning and he helped save that park and so did Governor Cuomo, it wouldn’t be here. You know how you’re supposed to say it’s partisan? None of that. We just heard what’s right for America, what’s good for America, what do we have to do, there was never a time when I was asked where do you sit, what do you think, this group, not that group, not at all and everyone has been helpful and I can honestly say that and I was shocked.
AC: You mentioned on stage that you’re now $765 million in debt…
JC: I’m 25 years old, look at me…
AC: Does this make it a make-or-break moment for Kodak?
JC: No, it doesn’t. It’s in addition to. We have a phenomenal printing plate technology and we sold our plate packaging group, our flexographics, we moved them digital print and besides making the world’s biggest, fastest printer, we now brought this technology down and we also recently launched 6 new products, we haven’t launched a new product in 8 years and one of them is in partnership with Uteco, which is the first digital packaging machine, this is a ground breaker. The technology we have in stream and ultra-stream no one has and we’re going to continue to grow out print division and film division is growing.
We’re finding other alterations. Non-destructible film, film in and of itself, Hollywood film will continue because it’s such a part of American sound and some of the greatest artists in the world, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, we’re going to continue to make film because we don’t want to lose that art in America, it’s critical. And that’s a big part of our business and that has been business and the whole company has been turning so we’re gaining momentum. Here’s what’s going to happen, I’ll be blunt with you, if it doesn’t happen, we’ll find a way to still do this, it’ll just take longer, this is accelerating something we were going to do.
We’re a chemical company first, we’re going back to our core. We lost our way. Restructuring, trying to figure out what you want to do, tough challenge, right? We made a change in leadership about a year-and-a-half ago. We focus on 3 things again: print, film and chemical, that’s what we do, it’s in our DNA, so asking you to breathe every day is easy.
AC: So what happened with the cryptocurrency?
JC: I’m out. When I came in, I’m out. It’s not what we do, that’s what we do. It’s great that someone wanted to try it good for them, it’s just not something we do. If it’s not print, if it’s not film, if it’s not chemicals … It all starts with chemicals, we make the world’s best inks, our film is chemical, everything we do is chemical or chemistry so with that being the case, it doesn’t belong, that’s where it went.
AC: Anything you’d like to add?
JC: I have a team that I’d put against anyone. We changed about half the leadership when I came in, we’ve retooled the business and everyone you see here is dedicated to the business and I’m pleased and impressed by that.