The past two rankings of Saskatchewan's Top 100 companies (and likely next couple as we capture results for fiscal years ending over the next 18 months) stand among the best we have ever seen.
To get a flavour of just how strong the performance of players in our economy has been look just about anywhere on the listing.
We've seen a Saskatchewan farm surpass the $100-million mark in sales. The province's largest privately held enterprise and our choice for Business of the Year, Brandt Industries, saw sales growth in the 25 per cent range. Cameco, another of our major corporate players, delivered a similar level of growth while others--like Redhead Equipment and Yanke Group--were chalking up close to 20 per cent gains.
Potash Corp, riding the wave of renewed international fertilizer demand, has reclaimed first spot on our ranking--eclipsing Federated Co-operatives, which is perennially in the top two spots as it too posts positive numbers spurred by its petroleum business and $50 oil.
And then there's IPSCO. The best performer in this year's ranking, it stands as No. 3 in total sales in this province but pound for pound (perhaps that should be ton for ton) the Regina-based steel and pipe maker declared itself as the top producer in the North American steel industry outperforming even Nucor, the steel company featured in the best-selling business book Good to Great.
Now in its 49th year of business, it went from $1.8 billion in sales to more than $3.1 billion its last fiscal year as its forward-thinking expansion, with major new mills in Iowa and Alabama supplementing its Regina production facilities and a host of smaller plants, demonstrated its capability in a red-hot North American market.
This year's listing offers a barometer of Saskatchewan's economic performance and solid management atop the Top 100 companies. Clearly we are riding the crest of our cycle.
Whether it's agriculture--which has rebounded from the earlier drought years and is now in an international upswing--or the industrial components of our economy, we are in a bull market right now.
On the farm front, PotashCorp's performance is an indicator of the world's agricultural situation. Rising demand for inputs points to the confidence farmers around the globe have in their prospects as new players such as Brazil or eastern Europe adopt North American agronomic practices, including fertilizer application.
Strong demand for pork in the wake of low-carb diets, BSE and Avian flu is evident in the performance of the province's largest producer--Big Sky Farms, which topped the $100-million mark in sales for the first time. Even Pound-Maker Agventures at Lanigan, which was caught in the whipsaw of BSE, saw a revenue increase.
But, despite the challenges of grain farming in the past few years, the past 12 months suggest we may have turned the corner and a good crop this year would assure a continued uptick. One interesting development in this sector that can be drawn from this year's list is the performance of our independent grain terminals. South West Terminal in Gull Lake has emerged as the top player in this category, ahead of North West Terminal at Unity and longtime top sales generator Weyburn Inland Terminal which now ranks as No. 4 in this grouping.
Still with grain handling, the fact that the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, once the top player on this ranking, continues to hold a spot on our list (No. 5) is not only welcome but a testament to the quality of management in our business community as the firm completed a complex and, at times, death-defying restructuring in the past year. It has emerged with one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry and is positioned to move forward.
In broad terms, Saskatchewan's economy has found its stride. The cycles that impact us most--commodity prices in particular--are working in our favour as this year's Top 100 numbers demonstrate. Whether its $50 oil or explosive demand for fertilizer and steel, our business community is on a roll, resulting in job growth every month for more than a year at a time when places like Ontario are enduring employment shrinkage and rising incomes. We continue to defy gravity on that bellwether of consumer confidence, retail sales, which have gone up something like 37 of the last 41 months.
In short, this year's Top 100 is a reflection of a business community that is gaining strength, populated with companies that are increasingly stretching beyond Saskatchewan's borders to successfully secure new markets. And, as a result, it is generating sales that translate into more jobs back home and repatriating profits from all corners of the world.
Top 100 Rank 2004 Location Gross Sales 1 2 PotashCorp Saskatoon $4,247,244,040 2 1 Federated Saskatoon $4,177,798,000 Co-operatives Ltd. 3 3 IPSCO Inc. Regina $3,189,949,000 4 4 Canpotex Ltd. Saskatoon NP 5 5 Saskatchewan Wheat Regina $1,407,297,000 Pool 6 6 Saskatchewan Power Regina $1,257,000,000 Corporation 7 9 Cameco Saskatoon $1,048,000,000 8 7 SaskTel Regina $932,358,000 9 10 Saskatchewan Regina $779,856,000 Government Insurance (SGI) 10 12 Saskatchewan Liquor Regina $737,423,000 and Gaming Authority 11 11 SaskEnergy Inc. Regina $704,500,000 12 15 Weyerhaeuser Prince Albert NP Saskatchewan Ltd. 13 17 Brandt Group of Regina $662,308,000 Companies 14 13 Co-operators Life Regina $637,732,000 Insurance Company 15 14 Farm Credit Canada Regina $627,844,000 16 16 Saskatoon Health Saskatoon $580,000,000 Region 17 18 Regina Qu'Appelle Regina $542,333,754 Health Region...