What You Can Learn from the Top 250 List

The annual list offers quick facts about companies and nonprofits, and the big picture about Hawai‘i’s ever-shifting economy.
08 22 Matson Honolulu Harbor Editors Note
Photo: Jeff Hawe

The Top 250 has always been my essential guide to business in Hawai‘i. It probably should be yours too.

Like all the best guides, the Top 250 tells you the main facts quickly. Want to know what the 20 biggest companies and nonprofits operating in Hawai‘i are, who’s leading them, and how successful they’ve been lately? The guide lets you know that in about 10 minutes or less.

But the list also rewards deeper reading by providing essential information about 250 organizations, their leaders, number of employees, and whether gross revenue was up, down or held steady across the last three years.

You see where you and your organization stand within the complex and ever-shifting business economy of the Islands. You see the big picture and vital details.

You learn about companies that just set up shop and others that have been around more than a century and a half. I read the Top 250 thoroughly when it’s being created and reference it often until a new edition appears 12 months later.

I have been covering news in Hawai‘i for 36 years – focusing mainly on business news for the past 14 – and yet I learn important new information with each list.


Getting People’s Attention

Associate Editor Cynthia Wessendorf spends months compiling the Top 250.

“We appreciate that the Hawai‘i business and non-profit community is willing to share financial results, which has helped us track companies and sectors for decades,” Cynthia says.

“That said, it grows increasingly hard to get people’s attention and get them to act to supply that information. So much email clogs up everyone’s inbox that our survey emails often get lost or ignored.”

Follow-up phone calls add dozens more companies to the list each year, but inevitably some major organizations that want to be on the list get left off because they failed to respond to our emails and calls.

“Those companies can get touchy about falling off the Top 250,” Cynthia says.

If you want to ensure your company is on future lists, shoot an email to cynthiaw@hawaiibusiness.com and say: “Here’s my email and direct phone line. Contact me next year when you start your survey.” If it’s not you, supply the name, email, and phone number of the contact person at your company and ask that person to create a calendar note to watch for the initial Top 250 survey email in March.


Tracks Results by Section

After compiling the list and checking it twice, Cynthia writes a fascinating overview story, which accompanies the list in this issue.

“I prefer to track results by sector, rather than who moved up a few places and who moved down. One exception is to highlight some anomalies in the list, though I don’t get to them all,” she says.

“Tracking by sector helps illuminate how outside forces affect the local economy and help propel/hurt individual companies. Some of it is common sense, but it can also pinpoint success stories, such as Matson’s.”

Matson has been slowly rising on the Top 250 since it separated from Alexander & Baldwin in 2012. It ranks No. 2 on this year’s Top 250 – its highest rank ever – and Cynthia highlighted its success in her story.

“We highlighted Matson because of their growth in 2021 and the role that shipping played in getting goods to consumers, many of whom were flush with pandemic cash and spending less on travel and experiences,” she says.

Matson shared its fascinating story of recognizing opportunity in the China to West Coast route, and quickly expanding operations in a competitive international marketplace from its headquarters in Honolulu.

Chair and CEO Matt Cox told Cynthia: “Basically what we did in China is to give the international markets the same levels of service as we give Hawai‘i.

“We have exported aloha culture, such as being nice and looking out for each other, into Shanghai or Chicago or wherever. It’s an exportable culture and our secret business success factor.”




Categories: Opinion