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The Commons at Pear Blossom Park in downtown Medford was a joint effort of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency and Lithia Motors. Medford officials are asking for input on whether to continue MURA. - Mail Tribune / File Photo

Lithia jumps to No. 294 in Fortune 500 list

By Greg Stiles

Mail Tribune

The Fortune 500 map is dominated by concentrations of circles darkening major population centers, leaving swaths spanning hundreds of miles without signs of corporate prosperity.

For the past 64 years, Fortune magazine has compiled a list of the top U.S. companies based on revenue. The power centers of the Northeast and their canyons of steel overlap along the I-95 corridor; Chicago trumps the Great Lakes region; Walmart hogs the south-central area; and the Dallas Metroplex’s contribution is dense, as are the Puget Sound and Bay Area.

Then there is a singular dot away from major metropolitan areas, just north of the California border. Lithia Motors, headquartered in downtown Medford, is listed at No. 294 in the latest list released Monday.

Lithia debuted at No. 482 four years ago and soared to No. 346 before reaching No. 318 a year ago.

The auto retailer grew revenue 16.2 percent in 2017 to $10.1 billion, while its bottom line jumped 24.4 percent to $245.2 million.

“We’re not interested in growth for growth’s sake, but obviously we’re trying to find good opportunities to diversify and grow,” said John North, Lithia’s CFO and senior vice president. “But it’s fun to put a dot on the map, and not be where everybody else is.”

After downsizing during the Great Recession, Lithia retooled and has reeled off 30 straight record quarters. It now operates 186 dealerships in 18 states with nearly 13,000 employees nationwide.

The auto retailer anticipates revenue of more than $12 billion this year. Lithia shares closed at $98.24, up 1.3 percent, on Monday. Lithia’s 52-week high is $127.99, and the low was $86.05.

“We’re going to continue to grow in more rural areas like Southern Oregon,” North said. “Other companies will be growing, but hopefully we’ll keep moving up the list, too, as an outcome of our strategy.”

New York had 58 Fortune 500 headquarters, California 49 and Texas 48.

Lithia has dealerships in markets such as Grants Pass, Klamath Falls and Roseburg, along with large-scale operations in Southern California and the Tri-State area around New York City.

“We’re proud of the ability to be both rural and metro,” North said. “Being Southern Oregonians is really cool.”

The Fortune 500 collectively produced $12.8 trillion in revenue, or two-thirds of the gross domestic product, and 28.2 million employees worldwide.

The revenue threshold to make the list was $5.4 billion, up 6 percent.

Walmart topped the list for the sixth year in a row.

Ranked by market capitalization, the top-four firms were: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway was No. 5, and Facebook was No. 6.

— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or gstiles@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness or www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

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