It started as a routine call, one of many I make while researching the MBJ’s annual Mississippi 100, a ranking by revenue of the top private companies in the state.
But after pleasantly updating his company data, Bob Dunlap, CEO of Dunlap & Kyle, Inc., in Batesville, flipped the script: “So, how is Mississippi doing this year?” he asked.
I’ve been a researcher for five years and a journalist for almost 40 years, but by no means am I an economist.
“Well, overall I think the state’s businesses are growing,” I replied, grasping for answers like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his … hat. “But, I think the growth is slow, especially for businesses near the bottom of the top 100.”
A closer look somehow supported my thoughts.
I compared the earnings of firms who submitted actual numbers (no MBJ estimates) the last two years.
About 62 percent showed growth, while 38 percent showed loss. That sounds good on the surface, but should over a third of a state’s Top 100 businesses be losing money?
But that analysis is on a small sample and unscientific. Besides, evaluating the economy isn’t the purpose of the Mississippi 100.
We publish this list for a couple of reasons. It’s data that can educate Mississippians about state businesses, and it’s information that is difficult to find.
We use annual revenue as the list criteria because we feel it illustrates company activity better than profit and loss.
Some businesses cooperate, and some take pride in being on a list that has been published annually for 31 years. Others would rather protect their data, citing competition and security concerns.
This year, almost three-fourths of the Mississippi 100 companies openly provided information about their operations — a 50 percent jump from just three years ago. Others did not return requests for information for various reasons — some technical, some forgetful, and some who just didn’t participate.
At that point, we studied online analysts, company web pages, published articles and phone calls for guidance in determining estimates.
Is every estimate correct? We wish. Maybe someday. But my goal for the list is to spotlight firms that belong in the Mississippi 100, even if their revenue estimate is off by a few dollars (or a few million dollars).
Companies on the list also change through mergers and acquisitions. In the spirit of the list, we continue to acknowledge some companies owned by out-of-state equity firms that still have Mississippi headquarters and still meet the criteria.
After all, it is about Mississippi businesses, and some people want to know how Mississippi is doing.
» FRANK BROWN a list researcher with the Mississippi Business Journal, compiled the Mississippi 100.
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