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Spring Cleaning for Photo Manufacturers



Olympus to Move to PA; New Heads Named at Fuji, Nikon

Olympus America will be moving from Melville, Long Island to the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.

The change in seasons has brought changes at three of the major imaging manufacturers as both Fuji and Nikon announced they had named new president/CEOs and Olympus revealed it would be moving it's U.S. headquarters to Pennsylvania.

All three announcements seemed timed to coincide with the start of the Japanese fiscal year as Fuji and Nikon named their new heads on April 1st followed by Olympus America making public on April 2nd that it would be moving. Of the three developments, Olympus America's move seemed to take the photo industry most by surprise even though the company, a subsidiary of Olympus Corporation in Tokyo, had been looking for a new home for the last two years.

Currently based in Melville, Long Island, not far from PTN's offices, Olympus will move its entire North American headquarters facility and distribution centers to the Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania before its current lease runs out August 2006.

In announcing the decision to move, Olympus president and COO Mark Gumz linked it to the continual changes in the marketplace.

"Our past performance is no guarantee of future success," Gumz said. "This relocation is one of the most critical factors that will contribute to our positioning the company for profitable growth for the next 25 years and beyond."

Olympus is the third ranked manufacturer of digital cameras in the world with 13% of the market, trailing Sony (18%) and Canon (16%).

According to Olympus, a tax abatement thrown in by the state of Pennsylvania as part of the deal will save the company "tens of millions of dollars."

But others have seen the move less positively, arguing that it was more a matter of convenience than anything else. Gumz lives only three miles from the Stabler Corporate Center in Center Valley, PA where Olympus is moving, compared to the current Melville offices, which are 120 miles away.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) issued a statement following the announcement calling the search process "a charade that left 840 of their loyal workers in the dust."

"[Olympus'] responses to our economic offers became a case study of delay and deceptions," Schumer challenged.

But Olympus has said it would offer "Long Island-based employees in good standing" their jobs at the new location in addition to "company assistance" for the move to Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth Sullivan, a spokesperson for Olympus, contended that the "motivating factor" for the move was the money that would be saved by the tax abatement.

"The fact that Olympus undertook a study and analysis that was two years long, that a lot of time and money was spent on this study, and that it had been narrowed down to three locations including the current location, tells you that the answer to your question is no," Sullivan said in response to a query from PTN on whether the proximity of Gumz' home to the Pennsylvania location was a factor in the decision.

At least one nearby photo retailer was pleased by Olympus' announcement.

"We're extremely excited about it because they've been supportive of the photo specialty channel," said Mike Woodland, co-owner of Dan's Camera City in Allentown. "A lot of other companies will just throw a couple of co-op dollars your way. But along with co-op dollars, Olympus offers programs such as the School of Photography that helps educate your customers and makes photography a more enjoyable experience for them."

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