TOP 100 2013: Companies with big names continue to build iconic brands
Heroes are remembered, but legends never die.
Neither do classic novels or industry-leading companies, generally.
Three of the top 20 companies from the Business Journal's first Top 100 list of private companies in 2000 have consistently grown and become unforgettable characters woven into the fabric of Central Pennsylvania.
These classic companies have a long history here. Not only are they leaders in their respective industries, but they continue to be at the head of the pack on the top 100.
Take a look:
• Utz Quality Foods Inc., Hanover: $154.2 million in 1998 revenue; $540 million in 2012 revenue (all-time high)
• Kinsley Construction Inc., York Township: $152.5 million in 1998 revenue; $356 million in 2012 revenue (peak was 2008 at $495 million)
• Gannett Fleming Inc., East Pennsboro Township: $152.6 million in 1998 revenue; $313.7 million in 2012 revenue (all-time high)
"By being private and not having thousands of public shareholders, our decision-making is pretty fast and pretty long-term," said Dylan Lissette, president and COO of Hanover-based Utz Quality Foods Inc.
During the last two years, the snack-food manufacturer has made three key acquisitions to grow its distribution footprint. Utz continues to integrate those companies, while looking for new opportunities in those East Coast markets to solidify the foundation of its business.
The company also announced two new Atlanta-area distribution centers to strengthen its southern reach.
"We're not just buying things to buy things," Lissette said. "Most are strategic and defensive or to increase capacity or production ability."
Meanwhile, Utz continues to research operational efficiencies and roll out new products. Among them is a co-branded Tabasco line of potato chips, popcorn and cheese curls. The company also has a relationship with Disney on products to coincide with its new properties.
"The beautiful thing about competition is it forces people to be innovative," Lissette said. "There is a constant need to create. You need to create new products and items, because you never know what will be the next flagship brand of your company."
Iconic companies such as Utz believe they are only halfway through their literary journeys. Maybe they are in the middle of the first book in a series, Lissette said.
York Township-based Kinsley Construction Inc. and East Pennsboro Township-based Gannett Fleming Inc. are literally writing those stories. Both have books about their history in the works.
Kinsley is celebrating 50 years in business, while Gannett Fleming will mark its 100th year in 2015. Kinsley's book is not expected to be done until the end of the year or beginning of 2014, while Gannett Fleming's is on track for its milestone anniversary.
That history contains its share of plot twists. This past recession hit many industries hard, including construction.
As a result, Kinsley saw revenue fall off since 2008. But the market has been improving, especially the private-sector work, said Jon Kinsley, the company's president and COO.
"I'd say the company has matured and we're sort of starting a new chapter coming out of this recession," he said. "We've had to sort of reinvent ourselves. It's a different market, it's tougher. It's leaner, and the margins are thinner."
Kinsley has seen a lot of activity in manufacturing and distribution as well as mixed-use residential work and adaptive reuse projects, he said.
"We've definitely seen it really turn around. We'll probably be close to our peak this year," he said.
Technology in the field continues to drive efficiencies within the company, Kinsley said. And there is more attention paid to training and improving internal processes.
"We're tearing everything we do apart," he said, from collaboration among company divisions to business development and computer training.
Moving forward, Kinsley said, he expects to see growth in technology infrastructure projects.
Gannett Fleming has been successful because of its strong customer service, which leads to a lot of repeat clients, said Bill Stout, the company's chairman and CEO. It's also had some successes with internal research and development projects, including one which allows the company to grout the foundation of dams in a more cost-effective manner.
"We are targeting growth in new geographies as well," Stout said, citing interest in California and Florida expansions.
A lack of state and federal certainty over infrastructure spending has led to international growth, Stout said. In Canada, the company has done a lot of transit system work. In the Middle East, it has focused its energies on intelligent transportation systems that detect and communicate real-time road conditions.
"We're basically optimizing the physical infrastructure there so we can get the most traffic through safely without having to add a land," he said.
Transit work and energy modernization projects could continue to drive Gannett Fleming moving forward, Stout said.
"We certainly want to grow private-sector work, but so much of what we do is related to infrastructure owned by the public," he said. "We're hoping as the economy continues to firm up, states will start spending more."
In the ongoing saga that is Gannett Fleming, the company is on Chapter 98, Stout added. Each year is its own chapter, he said.