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In a bad year, these Tampa Bay area companies still thrive

Yes, when combined the big public companies that make up the Times 10 shriveled in this past year's terrible economy from plum to prune. Yes, fewer folks work at these 10 now than last May.

Still, there's good reasons we dote each spring on the Times 10. They represent a key core of Tampa Bay's business community. They are survivors and thrivers that, together, generated $65.5 billion in revenues this past, challenging year.

When combined by earnings, these 10 hometown companies lost $1.8 billion this past year. But back out a very big loss reported by just one company, HSN (spun off as a public company within the past year, it got stuck with some one-time, heavy writeoffs), and the remaining Times 10 earned $576 million.

Curiously, these 10 companies employ about 142,650 people worldwide — roughly the same number of people who are unemployed in the Tampa Bay metro area.

But close your eyes. Can you name Tampa Bay's top 10 from memory?

Few can. Some of you will remember TECO Energy, because it's the owner of your Tampa Electric utility. Others will recall Raymond James Financial, because it's a big regional investment firm and, more to the point, its name is seared in our brains after cleverly grabbing the naming rights to the Bucs' stadium.

But the majority, including No. 1 Tech Data Corp. or No. 3 Gerdau Ameristeel, carry on in relative obscurity. They are international corporations without household names or high community profiles. No. 9 Walter Energy adopted its new name only this spring, replacing the Walter Industries monicker.

This is the ongoing beauty and curse of the Tampa Bay business market. The Times 10 are remarkably diverse, to the region's economic benefit. But they muster little corporate buzz.

Atlanta's got Coca-Cola and Home Depot. Charlotte's got Bank of America and Duke Energy. Dallas has Southwest Airlines and Texas Instruments. These are companies with buzz and household familiarity.

Among the lower profile Times 10? Tech Data and Jabil Circuit deal in tech. Gerdau Ameristeel makes steel, and Walter Energy mines the special coal used to produce it. WellCare Health Plans and Lincare dwell in the health care world. TECO sells energy, Raymond James sells financial services, and HSN sells retail stuff online and via TV. And Kforce supplies companies with staffing.

It would be tough to conjure up a broader mix. Yet it would be misleading to say these 10 companies dominate our region. Consider these candidates:

• Giant Wal-Mart and Lakeland's Publix Super Markets rank among the area's top employers.

• North Carolina's Bank of America and California's Wells Fargo (whose name is about to replace Wachovia, which Wells purchased) are two banks that employ thousands here and tower over our banking market.

• Tampa's OSI Restaurant Partners, parent of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's, and other restaurant chains, easily qualified by sales for the Times 10. But the once publicly traded company is now private.

Consider the Times 10 a useful annual snapshot in a photo album of our regional economy.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

In a bad year, these Tampa Bay area companies still thrive 05/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 18, 2009 10:26am]
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