State: Wal-Mart tops Pa. list of largest private employers
Though Penn is second in the state, the store employees nearly 39,000 Pennsylvanians.
October 25, 2002, 5:00 am·
Although Wal-Mart's prices may be falling, the company itself is on the rise in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., was named as the state's largest private employer in a recent publication of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, placing it ahead of Penn, which was listed as the largest private employer in Philadelphia and the second largest in the state.
According to the publication, Wal-Mart employs 39,000 people in its 118 venues across the commonwealth, and the University employs nearly 25,000.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber stressed the trend in the growth of the company.
"It's the largest private employer in the country as well as the state," she said.
The University was named as the top private employer in the state during the mid-1990s, but Wal-Mart's rapidly increasing growth caused the chain to surpass Penn and climb to the top of the list in 1997.
However, Peter Cappelli, a professor in Wharton's Management Department and the director of the school's Center for Human Resources, said that Penn's "impact on the local economy is probably the same, if not greater" this year.
"We have done a lot to outsource areas that we're not really successful in, so with regards to its everyday management, Penn is really well run," Cappelli said.
University spokeswoman Phyllis Holtzman added that the University's standings remained constant in the last few years, and has not been declining in employee growth.
She noted that the University's Economic Impact Report, published in 1999, had the University listed as the second largest private employer in the state, the same standing that Penn holds today.
Although recent economic difficulties have been felt nationwide, the 40 year-old Wal-Mart corporation has continued to thrive and, according to Weber, has proposed an 8 percent increase in their expansion plans for the next year.
"We've been very fortunate. It's a tough time to be in retail," Weber explained. But she added that "one of the things we focus on is our customer."
"We work very hard to provide the things that the customers want."
The first Pennsylvania Wal-Mart opened in 1990. Since that time 94 Wal-Mart Stores, 20 Sam's Club wholesale stores and four Wal-Mart distribution centers have been built in Pennsylvania alone.
Despite the down-turning economy, the company offers benefits to every employee, including medical and dental insurance and profit-sharing, which Weber adds may be a key to the corporation's success.
Cappelli agreed that the addition of benefits for employees may have been a factor in the corporation's growth.
"Wal-Mart is not your archetypal high-wage employer, so benefits of any kind are obviously a good thing," he said.
But he stressed that "with regards to benefits, Penn is terrific."
He said that the University provides employees with a "very good health insurance plan in addition to tuition benefits for employees."