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Still on top

While the 2011 version of the Mississippi 100 has many new names, the top five revenue-producers remain unchanged from 2010.

The “big five” in order are Ergon Inc. of Jackson, The Yates Companies Inc. of Philadelphia, Staplcotn of Greenwood, Howard Industries Inc. of Laurel and Irby Company of Jackson. The only change from last year is Staplcotn moved up one spot to third while Howard Industries fell one spot to fourth.

Here is more about these largest-of-the-large companies.

> No. 1: Ergon Inc.

$3.83 billion (Last year, No. 1)

Ergon Inc. traces its roots back more than a half-century when it was founded as a mere petroleum retailer.

My how the firm’s services, expertise — and revenues — have grown.

Today, Ergon, which is headquartered in Jackson, has matured into a conglomerate of enterprises and bears little or no resemblance to the original company.

Starting with a grand total of two employees in 1954, Ergon and its consolidated subsidiaries have built from the foundation of petroleum-related enterprises begun by its chairman, Leslie B. Lampton.

Today, the diversified firm has evolved into a network of market-leading companies employing nearly 3,000 people.

According to an estimate by Forbes, Ergon’s annual revenues stands at $3.83 billion.

Ergon operates as a sophisticated crude oil processor, transporter and marketer of refined products. It is also a producer and marketer of specialty asphalt products as well as an oil and gas explorer and real estate developer. In addition, Ergon manufactures state-of-the-art industrial computer products and road maintenance products and equipment.

The company’s roots in the petroleum industry service areas are still evident, including trucking and propane distribution, marine transportation and petroleum marketing services. Through acquisitions and from merging other company operations into a base of entities that would become Ergon subsidiaries, including ventures in refining, terminaling, asphalt marketing, mid-river operations, exploration, computer technology, maintenance support and real estate, the company have moved forward to become a well-diversified portfolio of companies.

>> No. 2: The Yates Companies, Inc.

$1.189 billion (Last year No. 2)

When it comes to big construction in Mississippi, none are bigger than The Yates Companies Inc. of Philadelphia.

While the state’s construction industry struggles through one of the worst downturns in history, Yates managed to hold on to the No. 2 spot on the Mississippi 100 list with annual revenues of $1.189 billion. No other Mississippi construction firm cracked the top 10.

Founded as W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company by William Gully Yates and William Gully Yates Jr. in 1963, The Yates Companies today employs approximately 5,200 workers.

Currently, the company has offices scattered across the Southeast. Yet, the corporate office remains in Philadelphia, the same small town where the company was founded.

Over its history, Yates Construction has tackled a variety of jobs, including commercial and government, retail and entertainment, hospitality and leisure, healthcare facilities, gaming and entertainment, resort and hotel properties, industrial services, heavy services, education facilities and LEED-certified facilities.

One of the company’s advantages is its in-house expertise. The company has experts in electrical, mechanical, concrete, asphalt, steel, drywall, site work, masonry, carpentry and exterior finishes. Because of handling so many aspects of the job, Yates has more control of the schedule, cost and quality for their clients. Although Yates subcontracts a significant portion of its work, this self-perform ability provides a level of expertise and value that’s hard to match.

Yates builds all over the United States and abroad, from California to Maine, as well as overseas in Puerto Rico and Mexico.

>> No. 3: Staplcotn

Approx. $933 million (Last year No. 4)

Staplcotn was formed in a time of crisis in the cotton industry, and has survived many challenges since then to remain one of Mississippi’s top revenue-producing privately held companies.

Originally formed in 1921 as the Staple Cotton Cooperative Association, the organization’s original mission was to help promote Mississippi cotton in an effort to open more markets to the state’s cotton producers.

Known today as Staplcotn, the organization is the oldest as well as one of the largest cotton marketing cooperatives in the United States.

Staplcotn has not only survived – it has thrived. It ranks third on the Mississippi 100 list with annual revenues of approximately $933 million. In 2010, Staplcotn ranked fourth with revenues of roughly $626 million.

The average annual inventory of Staplcotn is roughly three million bales.

While it has grown, Staplcotn’s basic mission remains unchanged – to enhance its members’ incomes by providing cost-effective marketing, warehousing, financing and other authorized services.

One of those offerings is Stapldiscount, a non-profit, wholly-owned subsidiary of Staplcotn, Established in 1923, the members of Staplcotn formed Staple Cotton Discount Corporation (Stapldiscount), to serve the credit requirements of Mid-South agriculture.

Along with Stapldiscount, Staplcotn provides a range of services to its members including domestic and export marketing, cotton warehousing and agricultural financing.

Additionally, Staplcotn serves textile customers, striving to provide just-in-time delivery of the specific cotton mix required by the customer.

>> No. 4: Howard Industries Inc.

$750 million (Last year No. 3)

When Howard Industries Inc. first opened its doors in the 1960s, it immediately started competing with some of the largest, best-established companies in the U.S. Some did not give the fledgling company much of a chance at all.

But, the nay-sayers turned out to be dead wrong.

Today, Howard Industries employs roughly 3,500 workers, and its annual revenues ring in at approximately $750 million.

Based in Laurel, Howard Industries produces a wide range of quality products and services for global markets, including distribution and power products for utilities and commercial/industrial customers, over 190,000 technology-related solutions for business and personal use, medical technology products for hospitals and clinics, industrial and commercial lighting products and lighting ballasts for the lighting industry and transportation services within the continental United States.

The company is perhaps best known for its power transmission products. The Utility Products Division of Howard Industries is a leading manufacturer of electrical transmission and distribution equipment used by utilities and by commercial and industrial companies worldwide.

However, the company also manufactures medical carts for the healthcare industry, and is a player in transportation services boasting a fleet of 150 trucks.

Howard Industries’ courage to go in new directions is illustrated by its line of computer hardware. Needing better machines, the company started producing their own computers. The hardware proved so successful that it decided to make a business of it. Today, Howard Computers is still producing computers used by schools, governments, hospitals and businesses.

>> No. 5: Stuart C. Irby Co.

Approx. $688 million – Last year No. 5)

When the electrical age was still in its infancy, a company set out with the vision of helping build the infrastructure that would bring power to the rural South’s homes and businesses.

That was — and is — Stuart C. Irby Co.

Founded way back in 1926 by Stuart C. Irby, the electric distribution firm, which is based in Jackson and is a subsidiary of Philadelphia, Pa.-based Sonepar USA, has dozens of locations in more than 20 states stretching from Maine to New Mexico and from Florida to North Dakota.

With revenues of approximately $688 million, Irby ranks fifth on the Mississippi 100, the same position it held in 2010.

In total, Irby, which distributes tens of thousands of electrical products to utilities, industrial customers and commercial builders, now employs some 800 workers.

The biggest news from Irby this year is its new complex in Jackson. The project represented a company investment of more than $6 million and created 10 new jobs, bringing the total number of employees at the facility to 156.

“Irby first opened its doors over 85 years ago as a single branch here in Jackson, Miss.,” said Mike Wigton, president of Irby. “The Irby footprint now includes 50 branches in 21 states serving the commercial, contractor, industrial and utility markets, and the company is currently ranked as one of the largest electrical distributors in the U.S.”


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