What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell us
COVID-19

Caution: Kodak’s comeback may not be picture-perfect

Jasmine Garsd Aug 7, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Kodak once could claim the majority of the global film market. Now, it's being tapped to produce chemicals for potential COVID-19 treatments. Chris Furlong/Getty Images
COVID-19

Caution: Kodak’s comeback may not be picture-perfect

Jasmine Garsd Aug 7, 2020
Kodak once could claim the majority of the global film market. Now, it's being tapped to produce chemicals for potential COVID-19 treatments. Chris Furlong/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Kodak is one of those brand names people of a certain generation will remember, and those younger might not.

Back in the days of yore, when you had to take the roll of film out of your camera and get it developed, Kodak was the photography company. But it didn’t survive the digital era, declaring bankruptcy in 2012. 

Now, in an unusual turn of events, it has been summoned to help produce pharmaceuticals related to COVID-19 treatment. 

Until about 10 days ago, Kodak’s place as a household name was going the way Blackberry and Blockbuster did. Then the Trump administration gave Kodak $765 million to produce chemical ingredients for COVID-19 treatments. 

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor of business at Harvard Business School, said it’s not as weird as it might sound. 

“Photography, I think, when it was invented was all about chemical baths, so Kodak had chemical roots,” she said.

But many are raising their eyebrows. Like medical chemist and science writer Derek Lowe, who’s suspicious of what’s being heralded as Kodak’s big comeback. He said the company will have to compete with a global, and possibly cheaper, supply chain. 

“Production for generic drugs is not exactly the path to riches,” Lowe said. “They are going to be hard-pressed to produce a lot of these things at any kind of price that can compete with what we get now with offshore supply.”

It’s hard to imagine this in the age of the selfie, but photography used to be something for special occasions and important people. Kodak became a household name because it made photography accessible to everyone.

Kamal Munir, professor at Cambridge Judge Business School, has studied Kodak. He said it didn’t just sell photography. Kodak was photography.   

“In their heyday, they had close to 70% of the global market share of film,” he said.

And Kodak’s failure to adapt to the smartphone era made it a relic. But will the pandemic change that? 

Some are having a hard time picturing it. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

Read More

Collapse

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.