Detailed Findings and Methodology
There can be large differences between the biggest company in one state and the biggest company in another — not just in the industries they operate, but also in their size. Apple, the largest company in California, reported revenue of $215.6 billion in 2016. That is roughly 280 times the revenue of Cloud Peak Energy, Wyoming’s largest company.
Still, some of America’s largest enterprises are headquartered in small cities. The largest company in the world by revenue, Wal-Mart, is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, a city of around 40,000 residents. With 2.3 million employees worldwide, Wal-Mart’s workforce is nearly 60 times the population of its home town.
Almost all large companies choose to go public because of the benefits it confers, mainly raising capital for further expansion and growth opportunities. The increase in liquid capital from the IPO helps companies finance further growth and invest in new market opportunities. Because of these advantages, the largest company in roughly two-thirds of states is publicly traded.
Still, some of the most successful businesses remain privately owned and often achieve the highest revenue of any company in a state. In Kansas, for example, privately held Koch Industries is substantially larger than Sprint Corporation, the largest public company in the state. The $33.3 billion in annual revenue Sprint reported in its fiscal 2017 is just one-third of Koch’s estimated revenue of $100 billion.
A number of companies on this list are either health insurance or utility companies. Health care and electricity are needs shared by both urban and rural Americans, and regional networks can have hundreds of thousands — and sometimes millions — of customers. For this reason, the largest companies in smaller states like New Mexico and West Virginia are power companies, while in Indiana, Kentucky, and South Carolina, the biggest company is a health insurance provider.
A state’s biggest company is often tied to the state’s largest industries. In Nevada, where the gaming industry generates a substantial share of state GDP, the largest company is casino and resort operator Las Vegas Sands. Similarly, automobile manufacturing is a large part of Michigan’s economy, and Detroit-based General Motors is the state’s largest company. Texas has over a third of the nation’s crude oil reserves. Unsurprisingly, the state’s largest company, Exxon Mobil, is an oil company.