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Fuji Cutting 300 S.C. Jobs
Staff Writer via Knight Ridder

Fuji will shear more than 300 jobs from its Greenwood plant as the Japanese company cuts back photo film production in response to rapidly growing demand for digital alternatives.

The cuts announced Tuesday will leave the 18-year-old plant with about 1,000 Fuji employees and roughly 100 temporary workers by year's end, concentrating on digital photography products.

Fuji had been a rising star in South Carolina's economy since then-Gov. Carroll Campbell announced plans for the plant in 1988. Expansions increased the full-time workforce in Greenwood to 1,200, plus another 200 temporary jobs. In 2003, the company shut down a line that made videotape, but avoided layoffs by shifting employees to other jobs.

"The worldwide consumer shift from analog to digital photography has necessitated the first layoff in our history in Greenwood," said Nick Sekiguchi, president of Fuji Photo Film's S.C. operation.

Similar cuts will occur in the Netherlands. Some jobs will be eliminated in Japan, where remaining film production will be consolidated, plant spokesman Allen Creighton said.

The Fuji Photo Film plant is one of the largest manufacturing employers in Greenwood County, and represents one of the biggest concentrations of high-paying manufacturing jobs in the state. Average pay from managers to production workers is $38,000 to $40,000 per year, compared with statewide averages of $32,000 for all workers and $42,000 for manufacturing employees last year.

Demand for 35mm film commonly used by households has been falling about 20 percent to 30 percent per year since 2003. "We're expecting it to be even more dramatic next year," Creighton said.

Creighton said Fuji will cut most of the jobs from three areas of the plant:

  • Closing its lines for coating 35mm and X-ray film by the end of June, eliminating about 150 jobs. Those lines opened in 2001.
  • Closing its line for cutting and packing 35mm film by fall. The 35mm packing line opened in 1996.
  • Closing its line for making photographic aluminum plates used by commercial offset printers. This was the first product made when the plant opened.

Creighton said he wasn't sure how many people are now making photo-sensitive printing plates. Last year, the company opened a line making printing plates that use a computer-guided laser to transfer the image to the plate. The two lines have about 200 workers, and most of those making photo-sensitive plates are temporary workers, he said.

The plant will continue making computer-to-plate printing plates, assembling QuickSnap one-time-use cameras, packaging color photographic paper and packaging X-ray film.

"We don't anticipate any further job cuts. The products that will remain are all digital-compatible products," Creighton said.

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