Number of top businesses drops as revenues grow


It's bad news/good news/bad news time about the area's top businesses, courtesy of the Washington/Baltimore Regional Association:

In 1990, the number of publicly held companies in the region fell slightly, according to a new report from W/BRA. That's the bad news.

The good news is that the smaller number of companies -- 161, compared with 163 in 1989 -- generated more revenue in 1990: $179.9 billion, vs. $100.9 billion the year before.

But the bad news is that very little of that increase came from existing companies. Mobil Corp., which relocated to Fairfax, Va., last year from New York, accounted for $64.4 billion of the revenue growth.

Those numbers are from W/BRA's 14th annual "Big Brass Band" report, a list of the top-earning public and private companies in the Baltimore-Washington market.

Next year, the U.S. Census Bureau is expected to declare that the Baltimore and Washington areas comprise one Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA), a move that will boost the rankings of both areas in the marketing minds of companies all over the world. The combined common market would be the nation's fourth-largest, behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

A few names absent from this year's "Brass Band" public companies report are Dart Drug Stores Inc., National Bank of Washington, Madison National Bank, Kay Jewelers and Spa Lady. They were sold, moved away or were shut down by regulators. Newcomers to the list include Fairchild Corp., Orbital Services Corp. and Environmental Elements Corp.

Mobil was the highest-earning company in the region by a wide gulf over the second-place contender, the Federal National Mortgage Association, which tallied $12.7 billion in revenue. Bell Atlantic Corp., which is based in Philadelphia but runs many of its operations out of its Arlington, Va., office, took third place, with $12.3 billion in 1990 revenue, and Bethesda-based Marriott Corp. and MCI Communications Corp. of Washington tied for fourth with $7.7 billion each (MCI's $270.0 million in profits dwarfed Marriott's $47.0 million, however.).

The largest private company in the region last year was Mars Inc., the McLean, Va., candy and food company, which reported $9 billion in revenue. Chevy Chase F.S.B. and People's Drug Stores came in second and third respectively among privately owned companies, W/BRA said.

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