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Celebrating 20 Years of Top 250

This August marks the 20th anniversary of Hawaii Business’ Top 250 list, our signature ranking of companies by their gross annual sales. In March, we launched a series of stories to recognize this milestone, featuring the businesses and people who have graced our magazine over the years. This is the fourth installment of a six-part series.


Then: The late U.S. congresswoman had just taken the helm of the

June 1983 cover of Hawaii Business
Honolulu City Council when we featured her on the cover of the May 1983 issue. “This council may turn out to be the toughest opponent developers have sparred with in a long time,” read the narrative. Of the feisty Mink it notes: “They are led by chairwoman Patsy Mink, a scrappy, liberal activist out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt mold, boasting parliamentary skills developed over 30 years of political in-fighting at all levels of government.”

Now: Mink passed away suddenly in September 2002 from viral pneumonia. The liberal Democrat would likely have been elected to her 13th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her death touched off a political scramble and two special elections: One to fill the remainder of her term and the other, a winner-take-all race for the new two-year term. Moderate Democrat Ed Case won both elections, besting Mink’s husband, John, in the first special election, much to the chagrin of loyalists, who wanted to see John Mink finish his wife’s term.


In Hawaii Business’ January 1983 compilation of winners and losers, the dairy industry was a definite member of the latter. Meadow Gold and Foremost lost millions of dollars after they were forced to dump milk, produced

MOO-VING ON: Hawaii dairy products, once tainted by chemicals, today tout good bacteria. Photo: product (INSET) from
by cows that ate pesticide-ridden feed. Farmers had sprayed the feed with the pesticide, heptachlor, to ward off fire ants. “Dairy farmers, whose cows were taken off production for months, are teetering on the brink,” said the item. As of that 1983 writing, milk sales had not recovered.

In 1983, in Hawaii Business’ inaugural listing of the Top 100 companies, Meadow Gold Dairies Hawaii ranked No. 53, with $40 million in gross sales. Meadow Gold was then a subsidiary of Illinois-based Beatrice Foods. California-based Foremost-McKesson Inc.’s Foremost Dairies in Hawaii ranked No. 63, with $30 million in gross sales.

Today, Meadow Gold and Foremost have weathered the storm and rebuilt public trust. Meadow Gold Dairies-Hawaii, a subsidiary of Texas-based Suiza Foods, ranked No. 71 on Hawaii Business’ Top 250 list, with 2001 gross sales of $89 million. Foremost Dairies Hawaii, a dba for Japan’s House Foods Corp., ranked No. 201, with $26 million in gross sales. Both companies have expanded product lines. Meadow Gold’s latest offering is IS (short for Immuno Stimulation), a passion-orange-flavored probiotic drink containing live bacterial cultures.


In 1983, Hawaii Business labeled Pacific Resources Inc. a big loser, after its stock dove from $17 to $8.50. Hawaii Business said, “Big expectations led to big disappointments when equipment problems delayed the company’s planned expansion into jet fuel production.”

Twenty years later, after being acquired twice, PRI is now Tesoro Hawaii Corp., a subsidiary of Texas-based Tesoro Petroleum Corp. Tesoro is a BIG Hawaii business and was ranked No. 7 out of the Top 250 businesses with $1.1 billion in 2001 gross sales. Tesoro (NYSE:TSO) closed trading at $7.10 per share on April 8, 2003, in comparison to 1983’s $8.50 price. Of course, 2003’s Operation Iraqi Freedom was a factor.

Faye Kurren, former president of Tesoro Hawaii Corp.
Photo: Kristianne Koch

Tesoro Hawaii Corp.’s operations in Hawaii today encompass petroleum refining, marketing and distribution, and gasoline retailing. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, former Tesoro Hawaii Corp. president Faye Kurren told Hawaii Business, “The current economic downturn shows our need to diversify our Island economy beyond the visitor industry. … we have to really pull together and develop long-term solutions that will help our state weather challenging times like this.”

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