The news out of Eastman Business Park has been rosy. Kodak spent more than $200 million to transform the site into a modern industrial center. The complex has its own power plant, railroad and other infrastructure. Businesses are moving right in.
Behind the scenes, there’s a growing realization among local officials the work to transform Eastman Business Park isn’t over. There is one million square feet of vacant space and 300 acres of developable land. As a chemical plant, the park is probably limited to industrial uses in the future.
The most immediate need we learned, is the power plant. To meet upcoming EPA guidelines, the plant needs tens of millions of dollars in upgrades because it is a coal-burning facility.
Who will pay for the upgrades? Maybe taxpayers. Already, one potential buyer of the park has walked away upon learning of the issue.
Ken Warner of Unicon likens this to the Midtown Plaza problem of years past. Developers wouldn’t touch the place because the costs of rehabbing it were astronomical. That’s why the state came in and spent $50 million to clear the way for developers.
The state will likely do an assessment of the park. When the information comes back, we might learn Kodak has a Midtown problem.
Here’s what Ken Warner had to say:
I liken it to Fairport Electric. People like to move there because they get cheap power. It’s the same thing with businesses. These days power is a very important thing for businesses choosing to come to a place. What makes Eastman Business Park so great is you can come there and you can get cheap power. If that leaves – if they’re unable to use coal-fired plants two years from now because of EPA regulations – then all of that goes away. Then you put in danger not only the opportunity to bring businesses here but you may put in jeopardy the businesses that are already there.
This is what the danger of Eastman Business Park is. There’s been a chemical plant there for over 100 years. This could turn into a giant cleanup facility situation where we’re spending a tremendous amount of money trying to clean up 100 years of industrial pollution.
You can’t sell it to a private investor when you have a situation where they’re going to have to invest a terrific amount of money within two years to keep that plant going.
I believe the other thing government should be doing is calling upon Eastman Kodak to come clean, if you will, about what’s going on there and to make sure that does not turn into one of our biggest problems in the community, and instead is one of our biggest assets.
In other Kodak news: