Is such an index reflective of the day-to-day activity of Philadelphia? Were we highlighting the corporations that matter most to readers?
We began to rethink how to present a regular snapshot of the biggest employers in the nine-county metro region.
One snag is that many of the region's biggest employers are privately held or organized as nonprofits, like the University of Pennsylvania, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Independence Blue Cross.
Still, many of the nation's biggest publicly traded companies have operations in the Philadelphia area and the Inquirer Business News department decided to track 50 of the biggest employers.
Notice I didn't say the 50 biggest employers. It's quite possible that in picking the largest employers in such a large geographic area, we'd wind up with a list containing two dozen retail and restaurant companies with thousands of part-time workers: Kohl's and Sears, McDonald's and Burger King, Target and Home Depot.
The Philly 50 is composed of 15 financial-services firms; 10 pharmaceutical or medical-device firms; four business-services firms and four retailers; three defense contractors and three health-care providers; two utilities and two chemical companies; and one each of the following: casino, communications firm, energy company, food processor, media firm, online technology firm, and software developer.
To make sure the list did include retailers, we added Wal-Mart, which estimated its local workforce at more than 13,300. Also, Supervalu Inc., the grocery store chain with a local workforce of about 5,000. Its Acme Markets Inc. division is based in Malvern.
In all, these 50 companies employ 204,198 people locally. They account for 8 percent of the 2.5 million employed in the nine-county region in 2011.
Every Sunday, we hope to bring some insight into what these far-from-small businesses are doing and how their strategies may affect their operations here. Sometimes that will be a Q&A with a CEO. Sometimes we'll examine an opportunity or challenge facing a sector.
These public companies are the face of Philadelphia's economy now. When any of the Philly 50 make a move, Philadelphia should be watching.
Contact Mike Armstrong at 215-854-2980, email@example.com, or follow @PhillyInc on Twitter.