tampabay.com

Oh, our Times 10: Like children, they're unique

By Robert Trigaux, Times Business Editor
Published May 14, 2007


After more than 16 years writing about their triumphs and shortcomings, I like to think of the Times 10, our once-a-year look at the biggest public companies based here, as a corporate version of All My Children.

Combined, the Times 10 employed nearly a quarter-million workers worldwide and generated more than $40-billion in revenues in 2006.

My, they sure get big in a hurry. And just like kids, how remarkably different one is from another.

Clearwater's Tech Data is the big brother. Its revenues roughly equaled those of the other nine altogether. Yet it lost money last year. Tough business, that computer products distribution. New CEO Bob Dutkowsky - the first CEO outside of the Raymund family - seems eager to make his mark on the company.

St. Petersburg's Jabil Circuit prefers to walk quietly but carry a big circuit board. The electronics manufacturer is growing worldwide, rapidly approaching 100, 000 workers. Just last week it unveiled plans to invest $30-million to build its first plant in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City. I recently asked Jabil to describe the company's culture. Two words: proud and aggressive. Gotta be to survive such global competition.

Yet Jabil's chafing a bit. It's caught up with some other corporations in a regulatory controversy over the favorable timing of stock options. Interesting how so many of these other companies have been nailed for wrongdoing - witness Comverse Technology's former top lawyer sentenced to prison just last week. But nothing's happened to Jabil, which denies wrongdoing. It may take a few months before it all gets sorted out.

Tampa's OSI Restaurant Partners - why didn't they keep the Outback name? - often acts like a bloomin' teen. On the one hand, its restaurants enjoy the biggest brand name recognition by far of any Tampa Bay area company. Yet the business is scrambling to go private and escape the media scrutiny that high-profile, public corporations tend to receive.

Tampa's WellCare is our speedy child. Doubled its revenues in just the past year. Riding the Medicare-Medicaid rocket ship. You'll be hearing a lot more about them.

Tampa's TECO Energy is the bounceback kid. Fell and hurt its knees, big time, when it tried to expand nationally. Now the pain's nearly gone. Lesson learned. Back to the basics of making electricity.

St. Pete's Raymond James Financial is the look-at-me kid. It delights in proving a regional brokerage house can play pretty well with the bigger Wall Street bullies.

Lincare prefers the leave-me-alone role. It makes plenty of money selling oxygen services. Otherwise, it keeps its head low in Clearwater.

Tampa's Walter Industries is the helter-skelter kid. It's that odd mix of a little housing business, a little natural resources and a little finance. Someday it may decide what it wants to be.

Clearwater's MarineMax is the play-all-day kid. Ooh, shiny boats! Let's go fishing!

And finally, Tampa's Global Imaging. Hey, last Friday it formally got hitched and became part of Xerox Corp.

They all just grow up too darn fast.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com or 727 893-8405.