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Bankruptcy Filing Wouldn't Surprise Kodak's Hometown

Amid all the chatter of Kodak possibly going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, one thing is clear in the company's home town, Rochester, N.Y.: No one's surprised.

Eastman Kodak company headquarters.
AP
Eastman Kodak company headquarters.

"If they do go out (of business), it probably wouldn't be as big an impact as if they had 60,000 employees," said Richard Earve, who has lived in Rochester since the day he was born, back in 1945. "It's not going to be good, but it's not as bad as it could have been."

In the early 1980s, Kodak employed about 60,000 people in this area. Today, it's less than 7,500. In fact, Kodak—the iconic brand of more than 131 years—isn't even in the top three in terms of local employers.

And if Kodak did, in fact, file for bankruptcy protection, many of the remaining jobs would also go away...and won't come back.

"These are skilled jobs, where you can't just look in the yellow pages and find a replacement job," said Drew Meyers, who works at a local restaurant and has lived in Rochester for 35 years. "You are going to see people leaving on a significant basis to find same-level work...unless they take a pay cut."

The Kodak story for Rochester is a perfect symbol of the structural unemployment problem in America. The only difference is that Kodak is a former Dow Jones Industrial Average component, with a brand that still resonates in our culture.

"These are skilled jobs where you can't just look in the yellow pages and find a replacement job." -Rochester, NY Resident, Drew Meyers

It just doesn't have a contemporary product to match the name recognition.

That's why it's different than what happened at Palm or Gateway, or even Research in Motion . In the history of American business (heck, RIM is Canadian, actually), they have occupied small windows of time.

But Kodak is a part of American history.

Its film innovations were born out of the post-Civil War era, and it was a corporate giant for nearly a century.

"Kodak was just such a big thing in our life, and it's just gone downhill over the years. And we've watched it," Lauri Hayton told CNBC. "You just don't think a company that big could have been that vulnerable. It amazed me."

She added, "It's economically going to hurt us and be devastating to those who might lose their jobs and their benefits. They were banking on Kodak."

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