America's Top 30 Job Creators

Enough with greedy bankers and hedge funders. As 15 million unemployed Americans search for jobs, The Daily Beast salutes the true entrepreneurs whose ideas and vision birthed great companies and jobs, jobs, jobs.

AP Photo

AP Photo

#1. Richard Schulze


Chairman, Best Buy


Founded: 1966


Employees: 180,000


Schulze started the superstore electronics retailer, first named Sound of Music, in Minnesota. It expanded offerings to include appliances and computers in the mid-'80s, adding stores to match, and embraced management efficiency. The chain now has more than 1,000 international locations. "If you don't take risks, you won't get where you want to go," Schulze told Investor’s Business Daily in 2000. "And if you're not willing to take risks yourself, why would anyone want to stay with you? You have to believe in yourself and take chances in the pursuit of that belief. Your people will see that and gather ‘round you."

AP Photo

#2. Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank


Founders, Home Depot


Founded: 1978


Employees: 193,370


Marcus and Blank had a simple idea—create a big-box store like Sears stocked with home-improvement supplies. The volume would allow them to offer discounts a local mom-and-pop store couldn’t, and informed service would ensure customers would return. After a few missteps, their vision proved fruitful, enabling millions to learn the art of home repair and employing thousands. “We believed from the start that if we brought the customer quality merchandise at the right price and offered excellent service, we could change retailing in the United States. Today, we are the model of what retailing should be,” Bernie Marcus has said.

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#3. Howard Schultz


President, Chairman & CEO, Starbucks


Founded: 1971


Employees: 142,000


Schultz didn’t create the original Starbucks outpost in Seattle, but he pioneered the global coffee chain that exists today. Schultz was introduced to the company during a brief stint as the director of marketing and, after leaving to start his own chain of shops, bought the company from its original owners in 1987. Rapid expansion followed, leading to thousands of jobs worldwide and billions in annual revenue. “Our role as leaders is to celebrate the human connection that we have been able to create as a company, and to make sure people realize the deep level of respect we have for the work they do and how they act. That is the legacy of the company,” Schultz has said.

Courtesy of The Gap, Inc.

#4. Doris Fisher


Honorary Lifetime Director, The Gap 


Founded: 1969


Employees: 135,000


Husband and wife team Donald and Doris Fisher opened a store selling Levi’s and LPs to San Francisco locals, but it became an iconic brand by focusing on its private label and expanding nationally. The Fisher family’s retail ideal of accessible fashion, reasonable price points and an expansive range of sizes led to its success and the nearly 3,500 stores that operate today. “Vision, imagination, and leadership make a successful business—but above all, it's a team effort,” Don Fisher declared upon winning a business award in San Francisco in 2007.

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#5. Ralph J. Roberts


Chairman Emeritus, Comcast  


Founded: 1963


Employees: 107,000


Roberts formed the company that is now Comcast after buying a fledgling cable system in Tupelo, Mississippi, with two partners. Roberts led the company’s growth by acquiring stakes in a range of other cable companies and investing in cable networks like QVC and E! Entertainment Television. The company now serves more than 20 million subscribers across the country and keeps thousands employed. “It’s not that I have no ego,” Ralph Roberts has said. “But I’ve learned that if you give people confidence and let them take some risks, most of the time they are winners.”

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#6. Larry Ellison


CEO, Oracle   


Founded: 1977


Employees: 105,000


With $1,400 and an idea for a database that could be accessed by multiple users, Ellison founded Oracle. The company grew rapidly thanks to Ellison’s ruthless determination. It has survived decades of merciless competition with Microsoft and a sales snafu that caused layoffs and repeated earnings restatements in the ‘90s to become one of world’s most dominant software providers with employees all over the world.

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#7. Michael Dell


Chairman & CEO, Dell   


Founded: 1984


The story of Dell’s rise—from piecing together PCs in his dorm to becoming the youngest Fortune 500 CEO ever—is one of the most tumultuous in recent memory. Despite executive shuffles and a few product falters, Dell created a business model that revolutionized the market and created thousands of U.S. jobs, defining the era of the PC. "Our business in North America continues to grow in increments of $6 billion to $7 billion a year—but where are you going to make all the stuff?...With our business model, it just does not make sense [to go off-shore]. The value equation is better building close to the customer,” said Dell in 2005.

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#8. Fred Smith


Chairman, CEO & President, FedEx  


Founded: 1971


Employees: 93,000


Smith turned an undergraduate Yale economics paper into an international shipping juggernaut in under three decades. While his foresight created a system that currently employs thousands of workers, it also revolutionized the retail cycle, bolstering the capabilities of hundreds of other businesses. “What I've always tried to do is to get people who have skill sets that are very different from my own—and to give them a lot of authority, relying on them to run their part of the show. I think that's been a strong suit for FedEx. Everybody's got individual skills and individual weaknesses. Knowing what kind of skills to put in place at what time is really the art—or some would call it the science—of what a chief executive does,” Smith has said.

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#9. Bill Gates and Paul Allen


Founders, Microsoft  


Founded: 1975


Employees: 89,000


Childhood friends Gates and Allen changed the trajectory of personal computing with their operating system that dominated the market in the 1980s and 1990s. Its initial success turned hundreds of original employees into millionaires when its stock took off. But the duo’s vision and leadership also created thousands of jobs in tech design, engineering, manufacturing, and, most recently, retail. According to Gates, “It's nothing personal to me, but Microsoft has gotten a chance to play a central role in something that's very dramatic. It has become the tool for making jobs effective and interesting, and education being done in a new way, and science being done in a new way. It's a phenomenal thing.”

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#10. Gordon Moore 


Chairman Emeritus, Intel




Employees: 79,800


Famous for “Moore’s Law” regarding the doubling of chip capabilities, Moore founded Intel with Robert Noyce and served various executive positions until 2001. The chipmaker became the world’s largest under Moore’s leadership, diversifying its product range and creating the first commercial microprocessor that led the creation of thousands of jobs, as well as hundreds of other startups.

Bloomberg / Getty Images

#11. James Sinegal & Jeffrey Brotman


CEO/Chairman, Costco   


Founded: 1983

Employees: 79,000


Sinegal and Brotman stripped all the luxury out of shopping to make Costco a success. Their idea turned retail on its head: sell in bulk, discount as much as possible, and ensure customers are getting the best possible deal. They also ensured that all employees are paid at some of the highest levels in retail. The strategy worked—after just six years in operation the company had $3 billion in sales. "Paying good wages is not in opposition to good productivity," insists Sinegal. "If you hire good people, give them good jobs, and pay them good wages, generally something good is going to happen."

Hk Rajashekar, The India Today Group / Getty Images

#12. Kumar Mahadeva


Founder, Cognizant Technology


Founded: 1994


Employees: 78,400


Cognizant has been one of America’s fastest growing companies for most of the last decade. Mahadeva led the explosive growth by creating a business model that relies on domestic consulting and Indian outsourcing, which allows for greater efficiency and fulltime client support. According to Mahadeva, American workers reap many of the rewards of the structure. “The people who are here in the United States are paid as much or more than any of our competitors…Effectively, [our costs] probably come out 30 to 35 percent less than someone who's using a purely domestic model.”

Bill Greenblatt, UPI / Landov

#13. Jack Taylor


Founder, Enterprise Rent-a-Car


Founded: 1957


Employees: 75,000


Taylor started the nation’s most successful rental-car company in the country after a stint as a Cadillac sales manager. What started as a tiny company grew into a billion-dollar business that has stayed in the family for five decades. One reason for its success is its incentive-based pay for employees, as managers’ compensation depends on monthly profits. Another novel hiring fact: Enterprise Rent-a-Car hires more college graduates than any other American corporation. 

Jim Stem, Bloomberg News / Getty Images

#14. William Morean and James Golden


Founders, Jabil Circuit 


Founded: 1966


Employees: 61,000


Morean and Golden founded Jabil—a name formed from James and Bill—in Morean’s Detroit garage. It started as a circuit-board fixing firm, but the St. Petersburg-based company now manufactures circuit boards for some of the leading technology firms in the industry, including Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell. Morean’s son, Bill Morean, Jr. is now CEO.

Emile Wamsteker, Bloomberg News / Getty Images

#15. Stewart Bainum, Sr.


Founder, Manor Care


Founded: 1959


Employees: 60,000


Despite a background in plumbing, Bainum opened a nursing home in Maryland. The company went public ten years later and under his and his son’s leadership, it merged with Bainum’s other company, Quality International, and acquired another nursing home operator. While his corporation has continued without him, growing into one of the largest nursing home employers in the country, Bainum has taken to philanthropy, donating $12 million a year of his fortune.

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#16. Thomas G. Stemberg


Staples, Founder


Founded: 1986


Employees: 54,149


When Thomas G. Stemberg was fired from First National Supermarkets, he didn’t have to look further than his local store to find the inspiration for Staples. “Back then, if you were a small business, you went to a small stationary store and paid $3.68 for a dozen ballpoint pens.” Stemberg said. “But big businesses were paying less than $1 for the same pens.” Hundreds of thousands of small businesses across America were itching to pay closer-to-wholesale rates for their office supplies, and Staples, along with Office Depot the same year, stepped in to fill that very large niche.

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#17. Rupert Murdoch


News Corp., Chairman & CEO


Founded: 1979


Employees: 51,000


One of the most famous and quite possibly the most controversial people on this list is Rupert Murdoch. His news and entertainment businesses have spawned tens of thousands of jobs in America. “In motivating people, you've got to engage their minds and their hearts,” Murdoch is often credited as saying. “I motivate people, I hope, by example—and perhaps by excitement, by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.”

#18. Henry Taub


ADP, Founder


Founded: 1949


Employees: 47,000


Nearly 15 percent of America’s workers are paid via Automatic Data Processing, but it was called Automatic Payrolls, Inc. when Henry Taub founded it in Paterson, NJ. With social security relatively new, and payrolls becoming more complex, Taub recognized the need for an outside firm to manage payroll processing. ADP’s roster of salesmen once included US Senator Frank Lautenberg. Taub today is significant not only for the jobs his company has created, but for his philanthropy. Earlier this summer he donated $10 million to Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Paul Sakuma / AP Photo

#19. Roger Marino


EMC Corporation, Co-founder


Founded: 1979

Employees: 43,200


One of EMC Corporation’s most significant contributions to the high-tech world is its Symmetrex disk array storage system, started in 1990. But by that time Marino had already built EMC into a well-established player in the computer memory world. Since his retirement Marino has invested heavily in sports and entertainment. “You put money into a small company and hope it gets big. I became an angel,” he said. “Who knew I was gonna be an angel someday?” He also serves on the board of TechTarget.

Craig Lassig / AP Photo

#20 (tie). Earl E. Bakken


Medtronic, Founder


Founded: 1944


Employees: 43,000


The first month of Medtronic’s life it made $8 in income for Earl E. Bakken and co-founder Palmer Hermundslie. Bakken’s motto, "failure is closer to success than inaction," helped guide Medtronic into a generator of nearly $15 billion in revenue for its 2009 fiscal year. Bakken is, at heart, a tinkerer, who invented the world’s first battery-powered pacemaker in 1957. His inspiration for combining electricity with medicine? The Frankenstein movie, which he saw in high school.

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#20 (tie). John Mackey


Whole Foods Market, CEO


Founded: 1980


Employees: 43,000


John Mackey talks about his workers more than most entrepreneurs whose ideas have led to massive job creation. He doesn’t take a salary, to boost employee morale, is critical generally of high CEO pay, and provides employees with health insurance. The holistic culture at Whole Foods stems from its origins as a small, natural food store in Austin. “Whole Foods puts food on people's tables and we improve people's health,” Mackey told The Wall Street Journal. “And we provide jobs. And we provide capital through profits that spur improvements in the world. And we're good citizens in our communities, and we take our citizenship very seriously at Whole Foods.”

Bloomberg / Getty Images

#22. Warren Eisenberg & Leonard Feinstein


Bed Bath & Beyond, Co-Chairmen

Founded: 1971


Employees: 41,000


Warren Eisenberg & Leonard Feinstein have grown Bed Bath & Beyond from a single store into a home furnishings retailer with more than 1,000 locations worldwide with subsidiary stores that supply everything from Christmas decorations to items for babies. “We are confident as our consistent results attest that home goods continues to be an extremely attractive sector,” Eisenberg said on an earnings call in 2007, as investors were concerned about the economic downturn. “Through the efforts of our over 35,000 associates in our decentralized environment, our strong financial condition and our competitive position in the marketplace, we are confident that fiscal 2007, which began about five weeks ago, will be our most profitable year ever and our 16th consecutive year of record earnings.”

Scott Olson / Getty Images

#23. Pat Sher & Stephen Dougherty


Office Depot, Co-Founders


Founded: 1986


Employees: 41,000


From one store in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida and 200 employees, Office Depot is now one of the nation’s largest employers. The timing of a warehouse-style office supply store was well-timed with the concurrent rise of Walmart, Best Buy, and other big-box stores. Fellow co-founder Jack Kopkin died in July 2008.

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#24. John Menard, Jr.


Menards, President


Founded: 1962


Employees: 40,300


Menards is one of the few private companies that’s produced significant job growth while being led by an extremely private billionaire, John Menard. What started as a small-scale construction company has grown into a hardware store that in some parts of the country rivals Home Depot and Lowe’s. “I’ve never looked back,” Menard once told Autoweek. ”Sometimes, I wonder how it happened and what it all means.”

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#25. Phil Knight


Nike, Chairman


Founded: 1964; 1978


Employees: 34,400


The 1990s were not good to Nike’s image. “Just Do It” became anathema at the height of the globalization backlash, with protesters rallying against Nike’s use of sweatshops to produce its often expensive sneakers. Nike responded by hiring a corporate compliance team and external auditors to improve company image and eliminate its worst offenses.

“At first, we couldn't be establishment, because we didn't have any money,” Knight said. “We were guerrilla marketers, and we still are, a little bit. But, as we became No. 1 in our industry, we've had to modify our culture and become a bit more planned.”

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#26. Steve Jobs


Apple, CEO


Founded: 1976


Employees: 34,300


Thirty years and a slew of innovations to the personal computer later, Apple came into its own in the 2000s, changing everyday computing with its Macbook computers, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Apple’s products flying off computer store shelves has meant more employment opportunities for talented engineers. “What I love about the marketplace is that we do our products, we tell people about them, and if they like them, we get to come to work tomorrow,” Jobs said at this year’s D8 Conference.

Phil Coale / AP Photo

#27. J.R. “Pitt” Hyde III


AutoZone, Founder and Board Member


Founded: 1979


Employees: 34,200


Automotive Hall of Famer J.R. “Pitt” Hyde III saw the need for a standardized, trustworthy, quality-assured name in auto repair and auto parts, and in 1988 changed the name of Auto Shack to AutoZone, embarking on an aggressive expansion strategy in the 1990s. Employees are expected to help customers 30 seconds after they enter a store, and AutoZone was a pioneer in using computers to be able to service a wide array of makes and models. “It’s not enough to give courteous service,” Hyde said. “We must give knowledgeable service.”

Chip East / Reuters

#28. Robert D. Walter


Cardinal Health, Founder


Founded: 1971


Employees: 31,200


What started as a food distribution center in Columbus, Ohio is today a $91 billion provider of medical and surgical supplies and products to hospitals around the world. Robert D. Walter stewarded the company from its inception up until 2006, when he stepped down as CEO, though he remained in other executive positions until 2008. Walter is now a director at American Express, Nordstrom, and Yum Brands.


#29. Elliot Handler


Mattel, Founder

Founded: 1945


Employees: 27,000


Millions of little boys and girls have Elliot Handler and his wife Ruth to thank for providing two iconic American toys: Hot Wheels and Barbie. These, among countless other successful toy lines, have made Mattel the top toy company in the world, and one of the most recognizable toy brands. Some employees and their families also have a unique perk: they can test toy prototypes before they’re released to the public.

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#30. Monroe Milstein


Burlington Coat Factory

Founded: 1972


Employees: 26,704


In 1972 Monroe Milstein slapped down $75,000 of his wife Henrietta’s savings as the first payment on the original Burlington Coat Factory outlet in Burlington, New Jersey. It was Milstein’s vision for affordable, fashionable clothing that turned Burlington Coat Factory into a national powerhouse with 367 stores when it was sold for $2.06 billion in 2006. “We worked hard, and I never took a long vacation,” Mistein said. “We always thought to live modestly.”