“Well, anyway, what was the real reason that Eastman decided to come here? It has been said, too often I think, that the scarcity of wood alcohol during World War I was the reason. Was it? I think not! At least not the important one … Looking back, I am convinced that they more and more came to the conclusion that a plant here — where the people roundabout were sincere, capable and shall we say, just old-fashioned, good folks— possessed the fundamental elements of a good location.” — Perley Wilcox, Eastman president, speaking at the company’s 25th anniversary dinner.
Eastman’s culture — the unique values and behaviors that created the personality of the company — was born early. Defined by Merriam-Webster as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization,” culture today means different things to different people. It includes how we work with each other; how we watch out for each other; how we earn customers’ business; how we create an inclusive global culture; how we are good stewards of our company, environment, and world; and how we are trustworthy.
From the company’s early days, it seems clear that the “pioneering spirit” of its first employees laid the foundation for future generations, as Wilcox explained at the company’s 25-year anniversary dinner:
“Now, again, let’s see what factors led the company to come here. Is it not reasonable and probably true that the character and excellence of the people in this vicinity was No. 1? The prospects that Kingsport would be a good place in which to live and develop a business, No. 2? And this region being in a progressive section of the South with good river water and railroad facilities, No. 3? And lastly, there is much evidence pointing to the likelihood that a pioneering spirit prevailed among us, and we just wanted to see what we could do if we had elbow room.”