Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Business

Wide-ranging private companies serve as cornerstone in Tampa Bay economy, job market

Thirty-nine of Florida's biggest privately owned businesses are based in the greater Tampa Bay area, employ nearly 250,000 workers and generate revenues topping $43 billion. Combined, they form a lesser-known cornerstone of the regional economy.

Not bad for such a wide range of largely low-visibility companies that do everything from making audio-visual equipment and selling RVs to distributing beer and processing seafood.

Who knew a Brandon gasoline distributor with 30 employees called Automated Petroleum & Energy generated higher revenues with 30 employees than Bradenton's Beall's department store chain with 4,100 workers? Who would guess amid the subdivisions and agriculture fields of Seffner reside the headquarters of two (Rooms To Go and Lazydays RV) of the area's 15 largest private businesses?

These are some highlights from the accompanying ranking of the largest privately held businesses in the greater Tampa Bay area. The firms are culled from the annual listing of the state's 200 largest private companies published in the July 2012 issue of Florida Trend magazine, an affiliate publication of the Tampa Bay Times.

These private Tampa Bay area companies differ from publicly owned corporations like area heavyweights Tech Data or Jabil Circuit or TECO Energy. Public companies typically trade their shares on major stock markets and are required to publish quarterly earnings and file regulatory reports about significant company events. That flow of information makes it more likely that public company news ends up reported by newspapers. Private firms more easily keep matters off the public radar.

Consider these rapid growers in the past year. Privately owned Neal Communities of Southwest Florida, based in Bradenton, jumped an impressive 33 spots in the past year to No. 164 in Florida Trend's statewide ranking of the top 200 private businesses. St. Petersburg insurance firm Universal Health Care also leaped a whopping 32 spots to land at No. 24 statewide.

Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets, whose shares are owned by employees but not traded on public stock exchanges, dominates the regional ranking as one of the largest private or public companies in Florida. It is mentioned here to offer a sense of perspective of size. Minus Publix's $27 billion in revenues and 70,000 employees, the remaining 38 private area businesses had combined revenues of just under $16 billion and a total of about 170,000 workers.

Behind Publix in area size is Tampa's OSI Restaurant Partners, which owns such well-known restaurant chains as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and others. This may be the last year OSI will appear on this private business listing since it has announced plans to take the company public (as it was once before) under the name Bloomin' Brands.

Once that happens, No. 3 Rooms To Go will rise in the regional ranks. The furniture retailer operates stores in 41 metro area across nine southern states plus Puerto Rico. It recently began pushing farther into Texas by gobbling up stores of another furniture retailer in bankruptcy.

A final note. Six of the 39 private companies on this list also made the latest Tampa Bay Times rankings of the area's top workplaces. Among them are Universal Health Care, American Strategic Insurance, Southeast Personnel Leasing, Power Design, Modern Business Associates and Hawkins Construction.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

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