When the Fortune 500 list came out three years ago, I sat down and figured out how many companies on the list are headquartered in Los Angeles County.
Why? Because Fortune magazine reranks its annual list of 500 biggest companies in all manner of ways but unfortunately not by metropolitan area. That’s curious, because most cities brag about how many Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in their metro area. Obviously, the number of big-company headquarters in a city is a real measure of how attractive it is for business. Beyond that, the more Fortune 500 headquarters you have, the sturdier your local economy.
So when the Fortune 500 list came out earlier this month, I repeated the exercise. By my count, there are now 14 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in L.A. County. If you throw in Amgen in Ventura County, that makes 15.
Not bad. Actually, that’s exactly the number Los Angeles had three years ago. Which is kind of good, since the general belief seems to be that Los Angeles has been bleeding headquarters.
Indeed, Los Angeles did lose DaVita and Northrop Grumman, two Fortune 500 companies that moved after the 2009 list came out. However, Live Nation and Molina Healthcare have since been promoted to the Fortune 500 list. (Although just barely: Molina is No. 500 on the main list, which ranks companies by revenue.)
Of course, the real test is how Los Angeles compares to other metro areas. And there, the news is…kind of mixed.
The Dallas-Fort Worth metro area has 18 Fortune 500 company headquarters, according to the current list. That’s the same number as three years ago. The Houston area has 25 by my count, which is down two from 2009.
That’s interesting because the general belief is that Texas is gaining headquarters. There’s no doubt Texas is attracting businesses and jobs in a way California is not. But in terms of Fortune 500 companies, Los Angeles can legitimately boast that its number has held steady during the last three years while Houston has lost a little.
Some other cities look about the same – they’re holding steady or down a little. Bedraggled Detroit, for example, has 14 Fortune 500 companies on the current list, down from 16 in 2009.
Of course, you could argue that Los Angeles County is bigger and by all rights should have more headquarters.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area, with 6.4 million people, and Houston, with about 6.1 million, each have less than two-thirds L.A.’s population. But both have more Fortune 500 headquarters. Houston has almost twice as many. That’s not great.
Still, if there’s a bragging-rights competition for Fortune 500 headquarters, Los Angeles can say that, contrary to popular believe, it’s holding its own.