A diverse group

Virginia’s top 20 public companies represent a variety of industries

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Print this page by Robert Powell
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Roanoke-based Advance Auto Parts is one of Virginia’s
largest publicly traded companies. Photo by Don Petersen

Before taking a close look at the largest publicly traded companies in Virginia, most people might assume they are all located in Northern Virginia. After all, that’s where the largest segment of the commonwealth’s population resides, and it is one of the nation’s top technological hubs.

The casual observer also might assume that Virginia’s biggest companies are government contractors. The state has a longstanding reputation as being one of the biggest recipients of federal contracts, especially defense contractors.

A breakdown of Virginia’s top 20 public companies, however, reveals a fair amount of diversity in where they are located and the industries that they are in.

Northern Virginia is the home of four of the top five companies, but fewer than half, nine to be exact, of the top 20 are located in that region.

Among the remaining 11, seven are headquartered in the Richmond area, three are in Hampton Roads and one, Advance Auto Parts, is in Roanoke.

Only four of the companies can be described as government contractors: General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Huntington Ingalls Industries and Computer Sciences Corp.

Three companies are involved in finance: Freddie Mac, Capital One and Genworth Financial. Another three are in retail: CarMax, Advance Auto and Dollar Tree.

The rest are divided among a variety of industries, including energy (AES and Dominion Resources); manufacturing (Altria and WestRock); distribution (Performance Food Group and Owens & Minor); transportation (Norfolk Southern); homebuilding (NVR Inc.) and consulting (Willis Towers Watson).

While Virginia boasts some of the largest public companies in the nation, it also is home to one of the biggest privately held companies, McLean-based Mars Inc.

Mars is largely known as the maker of popular candies, such as M&Ms and Snickers. The company, however, also has a growing pet products business, including brands such as Pedigree and Whiskas. In January, the company announced its plans to acquire for $7.7 billion VCA Inc., the Los Angeles-based owner of 800 animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.

Other major privately held companies in Virginia include Reston-based Carahsoft Technology and the Richmond-based trucking company Estes Express Lines.

Other notable Virginia private companies are relatively small, but they are growing rapidly. The commonwealth had 320 companies on the latest Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing companies. That number made Virginia fifth among states with companies on the list, behind California, 666; Texas, 395; Florida, 338; and New York, 335.

Virginia in fact had far more Inc. list companies than any of its neighboring states. North Carolina had 130; Maryland, 119; Tennessee, 80, the District of Columbia, 51; Kentucky, 30; and West Virginia, 10.

Some of those 320 companies may eventually find a spot on the lists of Virginia’s largest public and private companies.

Largest companies charts:



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