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Local firms make top 100 list

Seattle Times ranking puts PremierWest and Lithia in upper register for region

Two Medford-based firms are among the region's top-performing companies in annual rankings compiled by the Seattle Times.

Lithia Motors and PremierWest Bancorp ranked Nos. 14 and 29 respectively in the Seattle newspaper's Northwest 100 released over the weekend.

Lithia has been a mainstay in the top 20 since breaking in at No. — in 2000 for its performance in 1999. This year marks PremierWest's debut on the list.

The Times has ranked publicly traded companies based in Oregon, Washington and Idaho for 13 years. It measures performance over a two-year period, weighing return on equity, sales per employee, market value, number of employees and employee growth.

Portland's Flir Systems, which makes thermal imaging systems for night vision and industrial markets, topped the list for the second straight year. Seattle coffee giant Starbucks was No. 2, followed by Spokane financial institution AmericanWest Bancorporation, Schnitzer Steel Industries of Portland and truck and auto parts manufacturer Paccar of Bellevue, Wash.

— Lithia was No. 9 in the 2003 rankings and has averaged No. 11 over a five-year period.

In the last couple of years, quite a number of companies that were hurt substantially in the recession have bounced back very strong, says Dan Retzlaf, who heads up investor relations at Lithia Motors. Our growth has been pretty steady and consistent. No. 14 is still a pretty good number, and I think we can get back into top 10.

In addition to the top 100 list, the Times ranked a total of 161 companies separately in the five categories.

During 2003, Lithia employed 5,130 workers (25th on the list), showing a 5 percent gain in its workforce (54th). It recorded &

36;489,961 in sales per employee (19th), a &

36;35.547 million profit (31st) and at year's end had market value of &

36;470 million (59th).

We expect to increase our return on equity going forward, Retzlaf says. We're a fairly employee-intensive business and I think that would almost be a negative in a weighted system like this.

PremierWest was one of 14 financial institutions ranked in the top 30.

Banks are doing very well and there is also a lot of consolidation going on in the financial industry, says John Anhorn, PremierWest president and chief executive officer. The other part is that there is strong organic growth within the system. Banks do a good job of planning out the future, make goals and go after those goals aggressively.

PremierWest employed 280 in 2003 (105th), which was down 2 percent (94th). It recorded &

36;134,496 in sales per employee (123rd) and a &

36;6.003 million profit (71st), and at year's end it had a market value of &

36;125 million.

Anhorn notes that the impact of PremierWest's acquisition of Mid-Valley Bank of Red Bluff, Calif., wasn't factored into the rankings.

When we started this thing six years ago this month, we had two little branches in Medford, he says. Now we have 48 offices total.

Big ones have presence in Rogue Valley

One in five of the Seattle Times' Northwest 100 publicly traded companies has a presence in the Rogue Valley.

Companies range from international players such as Starbucks and Schnitzer Steel Industries to Albertsons and Elmer's Restaurants.

Mergers and acquisitions as well as corporate relocation routinely change the economic landscape of a region. In recent years, Boeing and Georgia-Pacific have moved headquarters to Chicago and Atlanta, and Fred Meyer has been gobbled up by Kroger Co. of Cincinnati. Klamath First Federal, No. 61 based on its 2003 performance, no longer exists following its acquisition by Sterling Financial of Spokane, No. 10 on the list.

Medford's first Starbucks outlet opened in March 1996. There are now five Starbucks coffee shops (not counting kiosks) in Jackson County, reflecting a trend that helps make the company No. 2 in the Northwest 100.

Starbucks has 74,000 employees worldwide, a 19 percent gain over the previous year. It rang up &

36;55,075 in sales for each of those employees, netted &

36;268.346 million and had a market value of &

36;11.642 million on Dec. 31, 2003.

Schnitzer Steel Industries entered the Southern Oregon market at the end of 1993 when it acquired recycling centers in White City, Grants Pass and Eugene from Sessler Inc. for a reported &

36;5 million. County records show the site on Avenue G in White City sold for &

36;370,000.

The plant processes 100,000 to 300,000 pounds of scrap metal daily, according to outside steel buyer Janet Clark, who has been at the site for 10 years.

We bring in every kind of scrap you can imagine, Clark says. Old pots and pans to heavy plate metal. We take bridges and former lumber mills, too.

Schnitzer has 1,495 employees and took advantage of the demand for steel in Asia to increase its workforce by 57 percent. The company racked up &

36;332,352 in sales for each employee and netted &

36;43.201 million in 2003. At the end of the year, its market value was &

36;425 million.

Lithia's rankings in the Seattle Times' Northwest 100 publicly traded companies for the past five years:

2000:1

2001:16

2002:17

2003:9

2004:14

.

With a scrap metal collection site in White City, Schnitzer Steel Industries is one of 20 companies listed on the Seattle Times? Northwest 100 that have a presence in the Rogue Valley. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell