It was 1989 when the Mississippi Business Journal first decided to compile a list of the top state’s top privately held business. It was published as the “Mississippi 100,” and it would become an annual event.
The list ranks companies by sales revenue and has become a who’s who tip sheet on the Magnolia State economy.
Early members of the list were retail chains and utilities such as Jitney Jungle Stores, McRae’s and Mississippi Valley Gas. For the last 15 years, companies such as Ergon Inc., Yates Construction and Staplcotn have regularly ranked near the top of the “Mississippi 100.“
Selecting the 100 has never been an easy chore. “Mississippi 100” researcher Wally Northway has compiled the list since the mid-1990s. He originally gleaned his list from Dun & Bradstreet reports and by calling individual companies.
“It was different back then,” Northway said. “You couldn’t just go to Google or Yahoo Finance and find a number.”
When Northway visited the Jackson library to see if it had a list, the library staff handed him a copy of the previous year’s MBJ “Mississippi 100.” That’s when he realized Mississippi 100 was the only ranking of private companies in the state.
By 2007, the Internet had caught up with Mississippi 100. MBJ hired a full-time researcher and employed third-party cloud-based service called DataJoe to build interactive surveys for companies to fill out each year.
Company representatives are emailed a survey from the Mississippi Business Journal through a personalized data website. A company can add all of its corporate contact information and include a summary of its industry specifics.
Sales revenue is the only metric the database is ranked by and this field must be completed by the annual deadline in order for a company to be considered for inclusion on the list. If the number is not supplied, the MBJ uses other sources to get an estimate.
In addition to crushing the tedium of manual data mining, one great thing about the DataJoe service is it allows companies to request a copy of the data from MBJ at any point in the year if they need to make updates like a new CEO, product line or service.
Once research is completed, the list is organized, ranked, fact checked, proofed and published in the weekly issue of the Mississippi Business Journal. A digital copy of the “Mississippi 100” is also kept on the website and published in the annual MBJ “Book of Lists.”
Often enough, out-of-state companies or government agencies will contact MBJ wanting a copy of the “Mississippi 100” so they can research the state’s top industries for market growth potential. It’s just one of the many ways the list insures its importance year after year.
“The ‘Mississippi 100’ has always reflected a good slice of Mississippi’s economy and how that economy has improved or otherwise evolved in the last three decades,” Northway said.
And if think we’ve left a qualifying company off the list, it could be that it does not fit the criteria. Some companies, such as Bomgar and Irby Electric have fallen off the list after being acquired by out-of-state business, even though the offices remain local.
After all, the list is all about Mississippi.
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