IW 50 Best: 2010 Year in Review

Dec. 23, 2010
As 2010 comes to a close, IW revisits some of the top 50 Best Manufacturers stories.

Several IW 50 Best Manufacturers made headlines in 2010 -- whether it was weighing in on the BP oil spill, getting "punked" by a group of environmentalists or fighting for the right to sell menthol cigarettes.

IW published its 50 Best Manufacturers rankings in the July 2010 issue as part of its annual IW U.S. 500 list of the nation's 500 largest manufacturers based on revenue. The companies were ranked on performance in revenue growth, profit margin, inventory turns, asset turnover, return on assets and return on equity.

The No. 1-ranked manufacturer was tobacco producer Lorillard Inc., which is known for its Newport brand of menthol cigarettes. Lorillard has faced some much-publicized battles with the FDA and antismoking groups who have questioned the safety of menthol cigarettes. Other 50 Best Manufacturers ramped up overseas investments, developed potentially life-saving medicines and expanded alternative-energy production.

The following is a recap of some of these stories that made 2010 a year to remember:

Exxon's Tillerson Weighs in on BP Oil Spill

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said in a June 15 statement to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment BP's Deepwater Horizon spill should not have happened if BP were following industrywide accepted practices. According to a copy of his prepared statement, Tillerson said: We are eager to learn what occurred at this well that did not occur at the other 14,000 deepwater wells that have been successfully drilled around the world. It is critical we understand exactly what happened in this case, both the drill well design and operating procedures, and the execution of the drilling plans, which led to such severe consequences. We need to know if the level of risk taken went beyond the industry norms.

Lorillard Wants Public to 'Understand' Menthol

The No. 1-ranked manufacturer on the IW 50 Best Manufacturing Companies list launched a website on June 28 called Understanding Menthol that supports the company's position on the issue with research and potential policy implications. Stiff regulations or an outright ban on menthol cigarettes would have a significant impact on the Greensboro, N.C.-based manufacturer. Newport is Lorillard's top-selling brand and holds the largest menthol market share in the United States.

Chevron Faces More Environmental Battles

Chevron's "We Agree" campaign caught the ire of environmental groups who accused the company of "greenwashing." A group of pranksters called the Yes Men partnered with activists to release a spoofed version of the ad campaign to media outlets. Several publications took the bait and erroneously reported that Chevron was admitting to past mistakes through the campaign.

First Solar's Expansion Efforts Power Ahead

First Solar Inc. is making more solar panels than it can handle, so the Tempe, Ariz.-based manufacturer is expanding with a new plant in the United States and a facility in Vietnam. "We are sold out," says First Solar spokesman Alan Bernheimer. "Basically demand exceeds our manufacturing capacity to supply."

Breakthrough HIV Treatment Shows Promise for Gilead Sciences

A gel-formed version of a drug developed by Gilead called tenofovir may significantly reduce a woman's risk of being infected with HIV and genital herpes, according to study results released July 20 by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research (CAPRISA) in South Africa. Tonofovir has been used as in pill form as part of various drug cocktails used to treat HIV. But when used as a vaginal gel, the drug appears to reduce a woman's risk of infection.

For the full list of IW 50 Best Manufacturers stories, click here.

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