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Now in its 26th year, the RBJ 75 evolves again

This annual publication, now 26 years old, has outlasted more than a handful of companies that appeared in the first edition. It has reached this point by doing what any business must do to survive: adapt and evolve.

Here we go again. With this year’s RBJ 75 we have refocused while keeping our sights set on the goal we established at the start: to identify and examine the performance of the companies that form the core of the regional economy.

Before I describe what’s changed, let’s take a look back. In the late 1980s, when this publication debuted as Rochester’s Top 50, the Big Three—Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp. and Bausch & Lomb Inc.—dominated the local landscape. Together, they employed nearly 64,000 people. Initially, we focused solely on public companies and ranked them based on market value.

After seven years, downsizing at the largest companies and other factors prompted us to expand the publication to include both public and private companies. The scope grew again in 2009 with inclusion of the area’s top 25 non-profit organizations. This, too, was driven by recognition that the local economy had changed in important ways, particularly with the rise of the “third sector.” At that point the publication got a new name: the RBJ 75.

Two years ago, we adopted total local employment as the ranking criterion in all three categories. We also revamped the presentation of hard data.

So, what has changed this year? We’ve done away with ranking by category; for the first time, the RBJ 75 is a list of the region’s largest private-sector employers, period. We also dropped the requirement that the publicly held firms must be homegrown. This opened the door to a number of companies that had been sold to out-of-town corporations.

We arrived at this redefinition of the RBJ 75 by asking a basic question: What’s more important to a local economy than jobs?

But why stick with the number 75? In part, we wanted to continue to track and compare the three segments of the private-sector economy. On this year’s list there are 28 non-profits, 27 publicly traded companies (though not all trade in U.S. markets) and 20 private firms.

We also want to avoid confusion with the Rochester Top 100, a program of the Rochester Business Alliance and KPMG LLP for which the RBJ is the print partner. In fact, the two lists are very different: The Rochester Top 100 ranks the fastest-growing private companies, while the RBJ 75 also includes public companies and non-profits and is ranked by total local employment. Only three firms on the 2013 Top 100 list appear on this year’s RBJ 75.

Much time and effort go into compiling the information appearing in these pages. Frankly, it’s not an easy task. Some companies are not quick to provide even basic employment numbers. This year’s list is based primarily on responses to RBJ surveys, but we’ve also drawn information from reporting by RBJ staff members, government filings and other credible sources. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the numbers.

Each year I invite readers to send us feedback and suggest ideas for the next RBJ 75. With this year’s changes, we’re especially eager to hear from you. So don’t hesitate to contact me by phone at (585) 546-8303 or by email at [email protected]

—Paul Ericson, editor

7/25/14 RBJ 75 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]

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