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LI's corporate roster turned upside down in a generation, list shows

Henry Schein, the Island's largest public company, is one of only two survivors from the list's top 10 in 1998.

Henry Schein Inc. said it will not be

Henry Schein Inc. said it will not be moving from its Melville headquarters. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Henry Schein Inc. leads Newsday's list of top public companies on Long Island based on revenue, and is one of only two survivors from the lineup's top 10 a generation ago.

The Melville-based medical products distributor posted 2017 revenue of $12.5 billion, more than triple its closest rival, according to government filings compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The other holdover company still in the top 10 is Global DirectMail Corp., a Port Washington industrial products distributor now known as Systemax Inc. that sits at No. 6 with revenue of $1.3 billion.

The corporate roster's shakeup is emblematic of the evolution of Long Island's economy since 1998, said John A. Rizzo, chief economist at the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group.

Back then, Henry Schein was No. 8 on the list with revenue of $1.6 billion, and the Long Island economy was still dominated by large corporations, even four years after Northrop Corp. acquired Bethpage-based Grumman Corp., the iconic aircraft manufacturer that once employed more than 25,000. 

By contrast, in 2018, Rizzo said, "there are many fewer big companies" and the economy has shifted gears.

"Nineteen ninety-eight was dominated by electronics," Rizzo said. "Now it's health care and financial. This means a shift from manufacturing and electronics to services."

Other companies atop the 2018 list are: No. 2 Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc. of Lake Success; No. 3 MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc. of Melville; No. 4 Hain Celestrial Group Inc. of Lake Success; No. 5 New York Community Bancorp. Inc. of Westbury; No. 7 Kimco Realty Corp. of New Hyde Park; No. 8 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Inc. of Carle Place; No. 9 Verint Systems Inc. of Melville, and No. 10 Aceto Corp. of Port Washington.

Aside from Henry Schein and Systemax, only one other company remains from the top 20 in 1998, MSC Industrial, a distributor of industrial tools and hardware. In 2017 MSC had sales of $2.9 billion. In 1998, it was No. 17 with sales of $519 million.

The top two companies in 1998 were Arrow Electronics Inc. and Avnet Inc., giant electronic parts distributors that relocated to Centennial, Colorado, and Phoenix, Arizona, respectively. Also on the list were No. 13 Symbol Technologies Inc., a Holtsville maker of bar code scanning equipment whose operations are now owned by Lincolnshire, Illinois-based Zebra Technologies Corp., and No. 15 Audiovox Corp., a Hauppauge maker of consumer electronics, now known as Voxx International Corp., that moved its headquarters to Orlando, Florida.

Richard Vogel, dean of the Farmingdale State College School of Business, said that Long Island's high taxes and cost of living could have been factors in the relocation of Arrow and Avnet.

"It doesn't pay to operate out of here," he said. "They may have limited profit margins. Given the cost structure of Long Island, it pays to move to a place with lower costs. You can look across America and maybe get a deal on property tax abatements, you may move to .... places with lower labor costs and housing costs."

Vogel said that some companies retain operations on Long Island even though they may have moved their headquarters or changed names through mergers or acquisitions.

Other companies in the top 10 from 1998 were: No. 3 Computer Associates International Inc., based in Islandia (now based in Manhattan and known as CA Technologies); No. 4 Olsten Corp., Melville (acquired by Swiss rival Adecco SA, which moved most operations to Florida); No. 5 MarketSpan Corp., Hicksville (which became KeySpan before being acquired by the U.S. unit of National Grid plc, based in Warwick, England); No. 6 Cablevision Systems Corp., Woodbury (acquired by Altice NV in 2016 and moved to Long Island City, Queens); No. 7 Avis Rent A Car Inc., Garden City (acquired and relocated to Parsippany, New Jersey, under the name Avis Budget Group); No. 8 Henry Schein, Melville; No. 9 Global DirectMail Corp., Port Washington (now called Systemax), and No. 10 Pall Corp., East Hills (acquired by Washington-based Danaher Corp. in 2015).

An indication of the size and depth of Long Island's corporate roster in 1998 is that the 50th largest company, E-Z-EM Inc., a Westbury maker of solutions that patients drink before gastrointestinal X-rays, had revenue of $99.2 million.

Twenty years later, the 50th largest company is Manhattan Bridge Capital Inc., a Great Neck provider of short-term real estate loans, with fiscal 2017 revenue of $5.9 million.

Rizzo said larger corporations have "deeper pockets to help weather a downturn," but there is another side to the argument.

"One of the advantages of having leading firms that are smaller is you have more diversity,"  he said, which also can help the region survive economic headwinds.

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