Tools to Track Corporations

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We're looking at the 67th largest county (of 88) in Ohio.

Everyone knows who the big employers are; they've been bought and sold over the years.

We want to figure out where else they operate, and what scale they operate at.

Interesting stories come out of doing this kind of research and analysis.

We'll start with some maps.

[ but first introductions, including questions about where you're from and what you're interested in ]

  • small towns
  • larger towns with corporate control without much analysis or political awareness
  • tracing drones and drone manufacture
  • suburbs versus industrial
  • combatting gentrification

REITs -- financial classifications: Real Estate Investment Trusts --

can we translate interests into industries? anti-gentrifiers need to know about REITs

About the county

the county in question has 12× geographic size of SF, with 5% of the population

in the appalachian foothills

what industries would you expect?

  • mining
  • logging
  • farming
  • prison? (nope)
  • factories

1% of land classified as industrial land, though it feels like more when you're there.

Mining/ore processing

Oxford Resources -- coal washing and refining

ohio coal miners from mitt romney's campaign were probably from this company.

no coal mining in the county any more, though there is debris from past mining and some mining in neighboring areas.


Rock Tenn: giant paper mill that takes in and re-processes paper waste.

Rock Tenn is larger than Georgia-Pacific


coal-fired power plant: very large AEP (American Electric Power), will almost certainly close in the next 10-20 years. many similar coal-fired plants nearby which will also be closed.

nearby town (Cheshire) had power plant that was mis-installed, acid rain over the whole town, the town was bought out by AEP and no longer exists.

AEP covers much of central and eastern US. They also operate thousands of barges on the Missisppi

39,000 people in the county. The tallest skyscraper in the world can accomodate 35K people.


McWane is a pipe manufacturer. they were known as a great employer, but they've been bought and sold several times and no longer have that reputation.

Communities might not be aware of the different sizes of the operations.

AK Steel -- more regional mid-western rolled steel.

Annin is a small flag manufacturer with a few other factories.

Kraft has an oscar-meyer bacon plant there, which produces all 1-lb O-M bacon packages.


Genessee-and-Wyoming is a short-line railway that operates all over the US, acquired over decades. they do ports: loading/unloading traffic, coal transfer work, etc.

Railway execs say coal shipments are dropping but frack sands are going up.

you can see the G&W railways around the great lakes, indicating the industrialization of the area.

Talked to the folks at the "port authority" in the county asked about who else was here. They mentioned a candy-apple manufacturer, a few steel plants, and an electric co-op named Touchstone.

Touchstone electrical co-ops cover nearly the whole US. -- 90% of the land, 10-15% of the population.

co-ops have annual picnics, sometimes with 900 or 1000 participants. This is a potential point of engagement across very rural/conservative areas.

International affiliations: G&W own lines in australia.

Other stats

County has the same size roughly as in 1910. the mean annual income is $37K/family. We wanted them to have a clearer sense of who and what they're dealing with.

Question and Answer

Q: how do you show this information to people in the county who canmake decisions or push for change within the community? How do you look at scale other than geographic scale?

A: let's look at scale: most of the companies are publicly traded. let's look at financial scale.

use yahoo finance to look at these companies by ticker symbol, to compare by market capitalization.

Kraft is largest ($31B), oxford (26M). we can look at market cap (or share price) over time using common web-based finance tools.

Asking the county folks how the project can be helped: apparently they got stuck with a 5 million dollar bio-digester ethanol project that they currently can't use. he's hoping to find ways to help them use it.


Everything is public data. web sites and SEC filings are really helpful, sometimes you have to go state-by-state (e.g. Touchstone).

We didn't use scraping.

Less than 6000 parent companies that trade on US stock markets. globally there are less than 50K globally.

Open corporates has tracked 10 or 50 or 90 million entities.

The traded companies account for a large fraction (more than half?) of the economy.

An interesting Spectrogram question: does index investing reinforce the status quo?

Side note: what can individual people do? one thing is to avoid the 5 largest banks.

Q: how would you use this data to help these people in this county? what is your analysis of this data? what do you think this says about the county and where it's going?

A: AEP will close down their plant within 20 years (they've announced it).

Oxford resources is dying.

Most land has been leased for fracking.

the county is looking for big business to come in and hire a lot of people. it's a very passive stance at the moment. I'd like to help them change that stance by looking at their community in a different way.

Q: If i wanted to start doing this research for my own community, how/where would i start?

A: draw a boundary: what's in, what's out? what am i focusing on?

then ask who does business there?

Q: why did you pick a county?

A: because it's a well-defined geopolitical boundary

usually you'll find small communities that have one or two or more very large operators are there, and those same folks have operations in other communities, but those communities might not know about each other.

For example: can communities that are losing AEP plants talk to each other to figure out a way to get a better deal?

Q: how do you find the social media and contact info for these groups?

A: google searches, and wading through lots of data.

I don't have an agenda against these companies, but if you did, you might want to coordinate your opposition using data like this.

Sidebar -- about koch connections

Koch industries is twice as large as all the companies we looked at together.

pipelines coal distribution oil and gas trading oil exploration and production oil sands proppants for fracking resin for fracking (via GA-Pacific) heat exchangers, tech, other equipment

contractors for natural gas infrastructure

Q: can you give us an example of when you've shown something like this to people and something concrete happened?

A: i identified oil and coal and gas companies operating in the US. We made a list and put it on a map, and it became apparent that Calgary is the Houston of Canada.

I'm often asked "what's the point?" and i don't love the question. For real change, more people need a more sophisticated, truer picture of the economy, particularly as it relates to big companies.

Q: so if i wanted to teach myself how to do meaningful research and analysis, what should i do?

A: If you define your region, you'll quickly find a big public company. you'll want to find the "10K" document (annual requirement for public companies). From that, you'll find competitors, subsidiaries, projects, etc.

much is published on

Q: why is Koch Industries connection workpassword-protected?

A: If it were to become popular, i'm not prepared to deal with that popularity.

the other 16% of Koch industries (84% held by two people) was held by the husband of anna nicole smith.

Q: what should we do to research private (non-publicly-traded) companies?

A: Look at Hoover's -- they have a fairly sophisticated industry classification, and some private companies are there. it's a subscription service.