While Tampa Bay's publicly traded companies tend to get more press attention (after all, they are public), it would be a profound mistake to give short shrift to the area's private companies.
Private firms play a formidable role in the regional economy, employing tens of thousands of area workers. Looking only at the public corporations is like measuring the performance of Rocky without Bullwinkle or Romeo without Juliet.
That's why I appreciate Florida Trend magazine's annual look, out this week, at the 350 largest companies in Florida. The magazine, owned locally like the St. Petersburg Times by Times Publishing Co., ranks the 150 largest public companies and the 200 largest private companies based on revenues.
Based on those rankings, Publix Super Markets is the No. 1 private company in the greater Tampa Bay area (that includes Lakeland, where Publix is based). Publix is a whopper, slightly bigger than Tech Data of Clearwater, the area's biggest public company based on 2010 revenues.
After Publix, the No. 2 regional private company is Tampa's OSI Restaurant Partners, parent of restaurant chains such as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's, Bonefish Grill, Fleming's and Roy's. At No. 3 is Seffner-based Rooms To Go, a large, low-cost furniture retailer.
(The top 10 area private companies for both the Tampa Bay area and statewide can be found in the accompanying box.)
A few insights about the top 10 private companies based in this part of Florida:
• Combined, the 10 employ nearly 200,000. More than half those jobs come from OSI restaurants across the country and a bit overseas.
• Seven of the 10 enjoyed an increase in 2010 revenues over 2009, while two saw declines and one was flat. The biggest revenue gainer was Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg, up 26.6 percent. Brandon's Automated Petroleum & Energy (APEC), whose gas stations carry BP, Chevron, Sunoco, 7-Eleven and other brand names, saw revenues rise 22.9 percent
• Right behind the top 10 private companies in the Tampa Bay area are CCS Medical (11th regional, 58th statewide) in Clearwater, Modern Business Associates (12th regional, 71st statewide) in St. Petersburg and Gulfeagle Supply (13th regional, 72nd statewide) in Tampa.
• The company that jumped the most spots is Tampa aviation fuel distributor Hiller Group. Statewide, its ranking rose to No. 99, up 56 spots. Among private companies falling in the rankings was Arthur Rutenberg Homes, down 29 to No. 187. Times Publishing also dropped to No. 123 from No. 107.
• Private Tampa Bay companies that did not make Florida Trend's ranking this year include the Tampa engineering firm PBSJ, 26th last year, which was bought by the British firm Atkins Global. Neither B&B Corporate Holdings or Robbins Manufacturing, both of Tampa, made this year's list because revenues were too low.
The good news? Overall, the combined revenue of the 200 private companies increased 8.8 percent in 2010 to $175.7 billion. Not bad in a tough economy.
That's a lot of dough, a lot of jobs and some pretty solid growth under the traditional radar.
Contact Robert Trigaux at email@example.com.