Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Finding local ties to the new Fortune 500 ranking

May 6, 2013

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Fortune's ranking of the top 500 U.S. companies is out. Use these tips to find local stories in the list. Photo credit: Sheryl Sulistiawan

The 2013 edition of Fortune’s ranking of the top 500 U.S. companies hits the street today.   And while the entries generally are clustered along either coast, most markets across the country boast some member of the list, which likely gives you an automatic instant story for your website.  The metrics are fairly standard: Why they gained or slipped, CEO pay, share price performance, new trends in those industries.  Hiring ought to be a good angle; assuming profitability is OK, (and if not, why?) are these firms adding jobs?  What kinds, and at what wages?  How are their overseas operations faring?

But I’ve been pondering the possibilities to delve a little deeper into what the list tells us about business and commerce (as well as some plausible angles for those of you with no F500 firm headquartered nearby), so here’s collection of story nuggets you might want to follow up on:

Workers. 

Fortune’s 500 list ranks companies by revenue.  But the data also is organized by number of employees, and that might be a measurement of more local interest; by scanning the list you should be able to pinpoint the members of this year’s list with a presence in your region, and show your audience how the area’s biggest employers fared among competitors.   Check the employment figures going back the past couple of years — here’s a link to the 2008 list by employment, for example, so you can analyze how the jobs market has changed among these companies since the pre-recession period.

Hot industries.  

Predictably, energy and technology dominate the upper echelons of the Fortune 500.  But by taking a look at movers, especially those in your region, you have an opportunity for a discussion about growing sectors.  As an extra resource, here’s a link to the market research firm IBISWorld’s recent list of the Top 10 Fastest-growing Industries.  They all have an internet component, from fantasy sports to e-book publishing.   Not a bad peg for a look at how traditional corporations in your area are incorporating e-commerce and other digital strategies to stay current.

Private companies. 

Not all big companies are publicly traded, and sometimes lists like the F500 leave audiences wondering why their employer or the logos they see every day aren’t on there.   Here’s a Forbes report from last fall on America’s Largest Private Companies 2012; companies with greater than $2 billion in revenue make the cut and the list is sortable by state; you might find some interesting story ideas on here.

Women.  

Out of 500 companies on the Fortune list, only 20 are headed by female CEOs.  That’s another opportunity for a discussion with local big corporations, women business leaders, management consultants and other pundits about the dearth of female chiefs in the 21st century.  I’d talk with members of boards of directors, too, about why they aren’t appointing more women leaders.

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