Guest column:

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By Marvin Easton

Naples

Maybe there is a lesson here.

In 1962 when I joined IBM there were 116,276 IBM employees worldwide and the revenue was $2.2 billion. In 2012 IBM celebrated its 100th anniversary and there were 434,246 employees and the revenue was $104.5 billion.

Also in 1962 one of our biggest customers in upstate New York was Eastman Kodak, founded in 1878. They had 75,000 employees worldwide and revenue of $1 billion. They were the world’s leader in cameras and film. In 2012 they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

What happened? One company continued to improve products and offerings to its customers, sold off less profitable product lines, and changed the business model to provide products and services that customers wanted to buy. The other failed to understand the changing marketplace and the needs of customers.

Is there a similarity in looking at the city of Naples Fire Department? Initially the fire department was established to put out fires. What has happened since the department was established? Fires have became fewer and fewer because of better building materials and building codes. So the firemen became trained to be medical first-responders to utilize their skills in addition to being available for the odd fire.

In the city of Naples in 2012 less than 3 percent of all call responses were because of a fire in the city or mutual aid provided to a neighboring fire district. Most of those fires were non-structural and minor in nature.

Sixty-eight percent of all calls were medical-related and not related to any fire.

The other 29 percent were false alarms and other non-fire related uses of fire vehicles and firemen.

So the questions that could be asked are:

1. Is the Naples Fire Department organized today for what it was originally organized to accomplish, or is it organized for the needs of the residents of Naples as they are today?

2. Does the Naples Fire Department have an equipment inventory of vehicles that are appropriate for the current public needs of rapid response to the 68 percent non-fire medical calls, or is the equipment inventory for putting out fires?

3. With the equipment the adjoining North Naples Fire District and East Naples Fire District have in their inventory, could these two fire districts and the city of Naples cooperate better with each other via inter-local agreements to the benefit of all three fire districts, the residents they protect, and the taxpayers who fund them?

What is being done now?

1. The city of Naples and North Naples Fire District have set up a committee to look into ways for these two districts to better cooperate.

2. East Naples and Golden Gate fire districts have set up a committee to investigate a merger.

Stay tuned to see if the fire districts follow the path of the history of IBM or the history of Eastman Kodak.

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