It's always fun to wow your friends and neighbors with descriptions of tiny companies that are new to them and that you can predict will be four-baggers overnight. But in today's roller coaster market, renewed attention to some of the bigger, stronger U.S.-based companies that are bringing home the bacon from around the world is warranted.

We could look at the likes of heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) or chemical specialist DuPont (NYSE:DD), but I'll pass on those for now. Same with aerospace giant Honeywell (NYSE:HON) and even Cessna-builder Textron (NYSE:TXT). For today, let's take a look at giant 3M (NYSE:MMM).

The St. Paul, Minnesota-based company sells products in many different areas: Post-it notes, medical wraps, optical films, dental and orthodontic products, and even roofing granules. That's quite a blend. And as CEO George Buckley told an investor group just last week, "Our core businesses are strong and getting stronger."

From an investment perspective, 3M has nearly a $50 billion market cap while selling at a forward P/E of less than 12 times earnings. Its return on equity approaches 33% and it sports nearly a 3% dividend yield. Nevertheless, its shares have slid more than 20% in the past year.

It's keeping up the tradition of being in several different aspects of the economy, too, as it's recently been in an acquisition mode. In just the past few months it's picked off a manufacturer of car care products for the automotive market, an Oklahoma-based maker of dental implants and radiology equipment, a Swiss manufacturer of pharmaceutical and biotech filtration systems, and a Wisconsin environmental monitoring equipment company.

Beyond that, I'm intrigued that 3M is launching a renewable energy unit that'll target wind and solar power.

If it can integrate all those products as well as it has in the past, while continuing to research and develop new products, its return on equity should stay right in that very nice range of 30%-plus. For equity investors, 3M could stand for "make more money."

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith owns a horde of Post-it notes, but doesn't have financial interests in any of the companies mentioned. He does welcome your comments. 3M is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy that'll stick around for a long time.