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Walgreen's Joins Wal-Mart in Ditching Kodak for Fuji
Our Buy American Mention of the Week!
by Roger Simmermaker
February 2, 2004

Walgreen's is officially kicking Kodak to the curb in favor of Japanese-owned Fuji. Kodak used to be the sole provider of photo-developing services to America's largest drugstore chain, but now Walgreen's has over 4,000 Fuji computer kiosks and 1,500 stores now use Fuji one-hour developing equipment. Wal-Mart switched to Fuji a few years ago saying "the sooner America realizes how American Fuji is, the better." I suppose it would have been "better" for Wal-Mart.

If you read the news last week about Kodak's plan to eliminate 12,000 to 15,000 jobs, you may figure it's just as well. But Kodak is Rochester, New York's biggest employer. The jobs of 21,000 workers there rely on jobs involved with film and paper production, packaging and distribution. These are the very jobs threatened by Walgreen's latest move, and if Walgreen's decides to switch completely to Fuji, Kodak might have no other choice but to lay off even more American workers.

Ninety percent of all the film Kodak sells to our market is made domestically, although Kodak makes none of their cameras here. But then again, no other cameras are made here either, except for Fuji's one-time use cameras. Kodak recently closed the New York plant that used to make their one-time use cameras.

Is this a reason to snub Kodak in favor of Fuji? The answer is no, and I'll explain why. It is almost always better to support American-owned companies. Perhaps syndicated columnist Charley Reese said it best when he said "it is easier to persuade American companies to bring jobs back than it is to persuade foreign companies to keep jobs here." Mr. Reese stated he believes that if Japanese companies are forced to choose between what's in the best interests of their American subsidiaries and what's in the best interest of Japan, they will choose Japan - and he's right.

A couple of recent news articles back this up. First, the Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 30 that Japanese camera and film maker Canon "wants to 'preserve its core competence' by retaining as much manufacturing as possible in Japan." Although Canon gets about 75% of its revenue from overseas, the company keeps 60% of its production in Japan, and plans to spend 80% of its financial capital there in the next three years to bolster research and development.

The second article featured Intel, who produces 50 million chips annually in China, but maintains their roots in America, where most of their product value and profits are generated. Intel's main plant in China is a testing and assembly facility that uses mostly American-made silicon wafers. Of the total product value, the Shanghai plant contributes less than 5%.

In most cases, we as American consumers need to show loyalty to American companies whenever possible. How can we expect American companies to show loyalty to American workers otherwise? I wonder how many American now upset over Kodak's closing of their one-time use camera facility indiscriminately bought either Fuji or Kodak over the last several years. It's entirely possible that had more Americans been loyal to the home team, Kodak's domestic plant would still be open.

It's a simple fact that American companies must have adequate profits with which to pay the higher wages we demand in this country. I'm not saying that there is no element of greed whatsoever in the Kodak company, as there is a certain element of greed in all companies, foreign-owned and American-owned alike. What I am saying is that we need to continue to support the American company in this case, because if Kodak folds, only foreign companies remain (Polaroid has already filed for bankruptcy). How much loyalty do you think we'll be able to drum up through corporate responsibility speeches then? Corporate responsibility ploys don't work on foreign-owned companies since they have no loyalty to America. Their loyalty is to their home country, and it is a loyalty that must be understood and respected. Any American who has nationalistic pride in America must have respect for others who have nationalistic pride in their home country.

America needs a strong American company in every single industry, and if you're talking cameras and film, Kodak's it. Therefore, a previous either/or situation for me as to whether to shop at Walgreen's or the Eckerd's across the street has become abundantly clear. Eckerd's still uses Kodak paper and processing exclusively, and they have plenty of American-made Kodak film for my Kodak Advantix camera.


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