Eastman kicks off countdown to 100

Hank Hayes • Sep 26, 2019 at 7:30 AM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport-based specialty products maker Eastman will turn 100 years old in 2020, and the company's preparation for the event got its formal kickoff on Wednesday.

Eastman Board Chair and CEO Mark Costa addressed employees about the event at Eastman's Toy F. Reid Employee Center and then did a rare media availability with area reporters.

"Eastman has an incredibly proud history," Costa told reporters. "We've been around for 100 years and we're 98 days away from our celebration. Over that entire time period, we've been innovative through incredibly difficult times, the Great Depression, recessions ... we've found new applications and we're going to do that for the next 100 years. Since the beginning of Kodak, we've been an innovative company."

The company, founded by George Eastman in Kingsport, expects in 2020 to launch a yearlong celebration of events, commemorations and special programs as it pays tribute to its 100-year legacy while looking forward to the future.

“Not all companies get the opportunity to celebrate a centennial," Costa pointed out. "We want to commemorate Eastman’s rich 100-year history of achievement while also looking ahead to the next 100 years and our vision of becoming the material innovation company.”

Eastman unveiled a centennial logo that was selected by team members around the world. The centennial logo will be featured in a variety of ways, including on company materials and branded merchandise throughout 2020.

Eastman will also use social media to share the company’s global celebration. The company also has launched a new Instagram account, @eastmanglobal, that will feature photos from the past along with profiles of team members.

The public is invited to join the celebration through a special centennial section that will be featured later this year on the company’s corporate website, eastman.com. The site will feature stories about Eastman’s rich history of innovation, the people and teams who have contributed to the company’s success for the past 100 years, and the values and principles that will shape Eastman’s next century of improving the quality of life in a material way.

Eastman centennial branded merchandise will be available for purchase through the Eastman Gift Shop — both online and at the shop’s location in Kingsport.

Eastman Then and Now

It was in 1920 that Eastman Kodak founder George Eastman turned his attention to the southern United States and its forests to find a supply of chemicals, namely methanol, for his photographic processes. That was the beginning of Tennessee Eastman.

"The key was George Eastman didn't want to be vulnerable to a lack of supply security. He was always there for his customers," Costa noted.

Eastman employs about 7,000 people in Kingsport and now makes thousands of products with end markets from cars to homes to appliances.

Eastman is the first manufacturer in the United States to develop and commercialize technology that derives chemicals from coal, rather than petroleum. The first coal gasification facility began operation in 1983 in Kingsport and in 1995 was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society.

Eastman's commitment to quality was recognized when the company received the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1993. The following year, Eastman spun off from Eastman Kodak and became an independent corporation.