By BECKY GILLETTE
With revenues of about $3 billion, Ergon Inc. (ergon.com) tops the list of Mississippi Business Journal Top Private Companies in Mississippi for 2018. The family owned and operated petroleum industry business headquartered in Jackson was founded in 1954.
Ergon companies are engaged in a wide range of operations including sophisticated crude oil processing, marketing naphthenic and paraffinic specialty oils, producing and marketing specialty asphalt products, manufacturing and marketing road maintenance products and machinery, transporting and terminaling raw materials and refined products, propane marketing, oil and gas exploration and real estate development—among other undertakings.
Ergon employs about 2,300 people and is headed by President\CEO Emmitte Haddox.
The Yates Companies Inc. (yatescompanies.com) based in Philadelphia rank as the second largest private company in the state, down from first place in 2017 and even with its second-place ranking in 2016. In 2018, Yates employed 2,070 and has revenues of about $1.9 billion.
The Yates Companies are made up of a number of subsidiaries associated with construction and engineering. Those subsidiaries include Yates Construction Company, JESCO Inc., Construction in Tupelo, Blaine Construction Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn., Edwards Electric Service in Philadelphia and Superior Asphalt in Byram. The company is well known for doing work primarily in the Southeast, but also stretching to others areas of the country.
Yates Construction Company, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, has been heavily involved in the hospitality industry building hotels and condominiums. The largest project in the firm’s history is the Beau Rivage Hotel & Casino, a 32-story, 1,780-room facility which opened in 1999. The firm was heavily involved in rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and after 14 other hurricanes.
The Yates Companies are headed by Bill Yates.
Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. (sfbli.com) based in Jackson ranked as the third largest private company in the state with revenues of about $1.5 billion. The firm is headed by Randy Johns. SFBLIC, and began operations January 2, 1947, as a capital stock life insurance company.
“Today our organization has branched into cities and towns all over the South,” said Matt Ginn, manager of corporate training and communications. “As a result of our dedication to quality service, SFBLIC has grown in strength and stability. Our mission is to be the life insurance company of choice for our Farm Bureau family. Our focus is to provide competitive products to our Farm Bureau policyholders and agents, while observing the highest ethical standards.”
With 650 employees in the home office in Jackson, SBFLIC serves agents and policyholders in eleven states across the U.S. and holds an AM Best A+ Rating from the Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organization.
SBFLIC Vice President Bengie Goff said trust is the number one factor to make any relationship to be successful–no matter if it’s business or personal.
“SFBLIC has a tremendous reputation because we have a foundation of trust with our agency force and home office working together to achieve our goals,” Goff said. “This trust translates into our communities and members who we do business with every day. When building a business or making a sale in order to be successful you must have trust as the foundation.”
Also, near the top of top five private companies is another Farm Bureau-affiliated Company, Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company (sfbcic.com) based in Ridgeland. SFBCIC has moved up from sixth in 2016 and fifth in 2017 to fourth in 2018. It reported annual revenue of about $1.43 billion and employs 1,630 people. The company founded in 1947 is headed by Robert Duff Wallace.
Southern Tire Mart LLC (stmtires.com), Columbia, ranks fifth in the state with the largest revenues, coming in at about $1.25 billion. And it is the largest employer in the top five with about 2,700 employees. STM has been named the number one commercial tire dealer in the U.S. since 2008. The company has 24 retail locations throughout the South. It is headed by Thomas Duff and Jim Duff.
STM has risen from the eighth largest revenue company in Mississippi in 2016 to sixth in 2017 to its current position as fifth largest.
Cotton marketing and warehousing cooperative Staplcotn (staplcotn.com) based in Greenwood comes in sixth on the list at about $1.1 billion. The company employs 170 people and is headed by Hank Reichle. It ranked number four in 2016, and ninth in 2017.
Staplcotn is the oldest and one of the largest cotton cooperatives in the country, representing about 7,000 members in 11 southeastern states.
Reichle said Staplcotn’s revenues can change significantly from year to year due to changes in cotton acreage, price and yield. Cotton acreage has risen in the Southeastern U.S. in the past couple of years.
“The volume we marketed and warehoused for the 2017-2018 marketing year increased primarily due to a nearly 25 percent increase in cotton acreage,” Reichle said. “Lower prices for corn and soybeans and slightly higher cotton prices have enticed some producers to add back cotton acreage to their production mix. They want diversity in their production mix. Since Staplcotn is solely focused marketing and warehousing cotton, our revenues are subject to change dramatically with the ebbs and flows of cotton’s acreage and pricing.”
Cotton prices were generally higher during the 2017-2018 marketing year than in the previous year. Robust world-wide demand for cotton was the primary driver of better prices. According to the USDA, global textile mill demand for cotton increased more than 6 percent from the previous year. Reichle said the price outlook for the crop harvested in the fall of 2018 is promising, as well, but there is concern about what effect trade disputes and tariffs will have on cotton and textiles. Prices are above where they were this time last year, but are well off their summer of 2018 highs.
“Yields across Staplcotn’s footprint were set to be above average as we continue to benefit from better seed genetics and excellent management techniques,” Reichle said. “For our more fortunate members, yields are excellent, but for many it will be a year of devastation and what could have been. The final stages of crop maturity and harvest have difficult for many of our members due to excessive rains in parts of the Mid-South and hurricanes Florence and Michael in the Southeast. Both quality and yield have suffered.”
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