The Andersons Inc. has not been a company that has sought awards or accolades.
But this month the staid Maumee-based agribusiness joined an elite corporate club by the sheer strength of its ongoing efforts to be the best it can be.
For the first time in its 66-year history, The Andersons was named to Fortune magazine’s list of the 500 largest U.S. firms that file certain financial documents with a government agency. The list includes publicly held firms and some private firms.
The Andersons came in at No. 472 with revenues of $5.3 billion.
It had been close before, listed at No. 517 last year before its 2012 financial performance pushed it well past the qualifying threshold and solidly into the benchmark Fortune 500 — an honor limited to a select number of companies over the last seven decades.
For The Andersons, though, there was no popping of champagne corks or employee holidays after the company was named to the list.
In fact, the company was not certain this week whether it would order a commemorative plaque. Because despite the “Fortune 500’s” secure place in the business world’s lexicon, the designation itself isn’t accompanied by any real benefits, tangible or otherwise.
“This ranking reflects the growth of our company in recent years, and while we are pleased to make the list, what is more rewarding is serving our customers and being number one on their list,” Mike Anderson, chief executive officer, said.
“It’s a ranking, and obviously we are fortunate to be recognized for our success. We’re in a position where we’ve had a few really good years back to back, and it’s not that we aren’t appreciative. We are. It’s always nice to be recognized and have that national recognition,” Debra Crow, spokesman for The Andersons, said.
“But while it was nice, we’ve got other important things to do,” she said.
Harold and Margaret Anderson started the firm in 1947 as The Andersons Truck Terminal, serving the grain industry. They opened their first retail store in the 1950s and added other segments of the business in the decades that followed.
Over the last several years the company has been expanding by buying grain-storage operations throughout the Midwest, expanding its investment in ethanol production, enhancing its railcar leasing and repair business, and even revamping its retail format.
According to Fortune, the Maumee company ranked 80th among all publicly traded companies for the highest rate of annual growth — 16.8 percent — from 2002 to 2012.
It also ranked 28th overall throughout that period in providing the largest total return to its investors, with an average return of 22.5 percent.
The Andersons is coming off 2012 when it posted a $79.5 million profit. Although its surplus was down 16 percent from 2011 when it posted a record gain of $95.1 million, the company’s revenues rose significantly in 2012 to $5.3 billion from $4.6 billion in 2011.
It was that rise in revenues — led by 15 percent growth in revenues by its grain division, 16 percent growth in its ethanol division, and 15 percent growth in its plant nutrient division — that vaulted The Andersons onto the Fortune 500. The revenues from those three divisions added $652.1 million to the company’s overall income.
This year the company is busy providing seed and nutrients for a large corn and soybean planting following last year’s drought.
It also is enhancing its railcar leasing and repair business, which had record operating income last year. The company recently opened a railcar paint shop to augment its repair facility in Maumee, which has been booming with increased demand for railcar transportation from grain shippers.
Making the Fortune 500 after those efforts was a nice recognition of the firm’s many efforts to achieve growth, Ms. Crow said.
“But that’s not why we do what we do,” she added.
And a Fortune 500 label doesn’t earn a company any leeway against its competitors, say spokesmen for the region’s four other Fortune 500 members — Dana Holding Corp., Marathon Petroleum Corp., Owens Corning, and Owens-Illinois Inc.
Three of those companies — Dana, Owens Corning, and Owens-Illinois — are among the 57 firms that have been on the Fortune 500 list every year since it was first compiled in 1955.
“I’m sure whoever’s No. 1 [Wal-Mart Stores Inc.] is happy they’re No. 1, and it’s a reflection of their revenue growth. But it doesn’t measure net income or some of the things that are more important to shareholders,” said Jeff Cole, a spokesman for auto-parts maker Dana.
“It’s mostly a point of pride. If I was No. 501, I might want to be in the top 500. But I don’t think that’s a driver for somebody to get into the Fortune 500. That said, revenue growth is a top priority of any company,” he said.
Matt Faltys, vice president and director of portfolio management for Fifth Third Bank, said making the Fortune 500 might have been a benefit to The Andersons had it meant the company was added to a stock index based on the list. But no index is based on the Fortune 500, and Mr. Faltys said no investor has ever purchased stock from him based on the list.
“We know the consequences of being added to the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Index, but the Fortune 500? Honestly, I’ve never put any thought into it. I don’t know that I’ve ever really looked at that list and no one has ever brought it up,” Mr. Faltys said.
Likewise, analyst Ken Zaslow of BMO Capital Markets said being named to the Fortune 500 is an honor for The Andersons, “but overall I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
However, a company that makes the list can make use of that distinction to differentiate itself from its competitors.
“Being listed as a Fortune 500 company emphasizes the success of your company,” said Angelia Graves, a spokesman for Findlay’s Marathon Petroleum, which ranks 33rd on the Fortune list.
“We partner with The Andersons, so we know what they’ve done. It shows they’ve expanded their business and have been able to grow the company to enable them to be placed on the Fortune 500,” Ms. Graves said.
“We do like to indicate that we are a Fortune 50 company. That, in and of itself, shows the success of our company. It’s somewhat of a benchmark for those in various industries, and it’s a recognition of not only the size of your company, but the ability of your company to perform.”
Lisa Babington, a spokesman for O-I, said the Perrysburg-based glass container maker uses its spot on the Fortune 500 as a recruiting tool and a reminder to potential employees that the list is a who’s who of the most successful companies.
“Potential employees are attracted to the career-growth opportunities available from a large, often global company. These characteristics typify a Fortune 500 company,” she said. “For many people, working for a Fortune 500 company is viewed as an indication that they have worked for the best.”
At Owens Corning, spokesman Matt Schroder said the company likes to use its designation as a Fortune 500 member as a point of pride internally.
“Our longevity on the list, and as a company, speaks to the resiliency and innovation our employees have shown for decades,” he said, noting that OC is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
“We recognize the status and credibility that being a Fortune 500 company brings. It’s a label and a reference point that, for us, carries a positive, successful perception that it’s up to us to continue to deliver on,” he said.
Contact Jon Chavez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6128.