Monday, November 2, 2015

Well-worn ruts in the road

When a newspaper gives you a soapbox to comment on business trends, aren't there better topics than revisiting the decline of once-dominant manufacturers who long ago lost their edge?

When I read Patrick Burke's column, "Tough times for Rochester's former Big Three," I thought: "Great opinion piece. For 2010."

Kodak's in financial trouble? Tired old news. The company struggled with digital innovation, and hasn't yet regained its footing. Xerox is having trouble? Surprise -- it's tough when you're elbowing against nimble system integrators. Bausch & Lomb's parent company, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, has earned scrutiny for questionable financial practices? Those behaviors pre-date Valeant's 2013 purchase of B&L and its move to New Jersey.

Xerox's Gil Hatch Center, Webster, NY. Photo by
DanielPenfield (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
Big companies now compete in a global arena. They aren't always adept at great execution. That makes it easy for bloggers and columnists to point fingers at them for mediocre performance.

Mr. Burke's observations travel well-worn ruts in our business landscape. The Rochester region has fresher success stories in small- and medium-sized companies, the emerging photonics manufacturing initiative, surging real estate, and its largest employers: the University of Rochester and Wegmans.

As a former Kodak employee, with friends employed at Xerox, B&L, and Kodak, I wish them all a resurgence and success. But more than this, I wish newspapers would let go of the "former Big Three" mindset. None of these companies will likely return to the dominance they had in a pre-global economy.

(And it's more than convenient to overlook the fortunes of another former big player: Gannett Corp., which hosts Mr. Burke's column.)

Please lose the preoccupation with a Big Three that hasn't been "big" for years. And start looking forward.