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Business Observer Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009 10 years ago

Nine Lives

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The recession is pervasive up and down the Gulf Coast, but a few companies have found ways to grow at skyrocketing rates. Nearly 10 such local businesses made a national best-of list.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

The recession is pervasive up and down the Gulf Coast, but a few companies have found ways to grow at skyrocketing rates. Nearly 10 such local businesses made a national best-of list.

The Gulf Coast is well represented in Inc. magazine's latest list of the fastest-growing companies in the country, including two in the top 10.

The magazine's annual Inc. 500 issue ranks companies based on three-year revenue growth rates from 2005-2008. The 2009 Inc. 500, therefore, straddles both the boom and the bust.

The entire Sunshine State also did well in the rankings, as the 28 state-headquartered companies on the Inc. 500 made Florida the fifth-most populous state in the report. That includes the number one overall company, Miami-based Northern Capital Insurance. Northern Capital, which owns and operates a pair of Florida-focused property and casualty insurance carriers, has seen its revenues rise 19,812% since 2005, from $476,898 when it was a one-year-old startup to $95 million last year.

Meanwhile, most of the Gulf Coast companies that made the list are in the technology industry, with a few surprises in places such as pool supplies and moving. The companies, with the Inc. 500 ranking, include:

• IntegraClick, #5: The Sarasota-based company reported a three-year growth rate of 12,654%, going from $755,547 in 2005 revenues to $96.4 million in 2008. The 55-employee firm is in the niche field of cost-per-action Internet advertising, what some consider an improvement over the more traditional pay-per-click method of selling online ads. (See 11/06/08 Review.)

• Freedom Healh, #7: Based in Tampa, Freedom, which has 230 employees, specializes in administering Medicare and Medicaid benefits in 17 Florida counties through more than 2,500 medical providers. The company's revenues grew 10,035%, from $1.8 million in 2005 to $182.8 million in 2008

• Aqua Superstore, #48: The 35-employee company, based in Port Charlotte, runs a discount pool supply operation through its Web site and catalogs. Aqua Superstore also maintains offices and warehouses in Bradenton, North Port, Orlando, Daytona and four states outside Florida. The company grew its revenues 2,695% in three years, from $267,216 in 2005 to $7.5 million last year.

• College Hunks Hauling Junk, #156: The company grew 1,179%, from $225,023 in 2005 revenues to $2.9 million last year. The Tampa-based franchise business, with 75 employees, moves clutter out of offices and homes. (See 2/12/09 Review.)

• eMason, #199: The Clearwater-based firm, which has 27 employees, develops and markets automated software products. Its three-year growth mark was 1,010%, going from $341,455 in 2005 revenues to $3.8 million last year.

• Celestar, #225: The 68-employee Tampa-based firm focuses on support, training and intelligence for homeland security concerns, counting a mix of government agencies and defense contractors as clients. It grew 932.5% from 2005 to 2008, going from $806,636 to $8.3 million in annual revenues.

• Triad Digital Media, #373: The Tampa-based company, with 155 employees and five additional offices outside Florida, grew revenues 677% from 2005 to 2008, from $6.6 million to $51.4 million. The company manages online ad campaigns for a variety of retail businesses, including Dell and Wal-Mart.

• Ignite Media Solutions, #418: Based in Oldsmar, the marketing and advertising firm recently changed its name from Advanced Interactive Sciences, as it moved away from focusing on digital TV technology to becoming more of a full-serve advertising firm. The company has 68 employees and grew revenues from $5.2 million in 2005 to $37.1 million in 2008, a 618% increase.

• Sensible Micro, #429: The Odessa-based company, with 18 employees, grew 608% from 2005 to 2008, going from $489,494 in annual revenues to $3.5 million. The business is an independent distributor of computer hardware products such as processors, memory cards and semiconductors. Clients include aerospace firms and defense contractors.

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