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Fueling the economic fire



There's nothing more inspiring in a rough economic climate than hearing about companies that are succeeding and even adding jobs. While the Not So Great Recovery continues to emerge from the Great Recession, entrepreneurs have continued to find ways to make their businesses work and prime themselves for the future.

Here are 50 tales of business success and innovation. These Colorado Companies to Watch are second-stage enterprises that will help the state regain its footing as a fertile ground for business growth. Here's the complete list.

The 2010 class of companies in the program - which debuted last year - once again represent a diverse group of industries from around the state, delivering such services as information technology, solar power installations and recycling; and manufacturing such industrial products as veterinary equipment, defense systems and biochemicals. Consumer goods are represented by the makers of chocolate, energy bars, burritos and beer.

The economic impact of these companies is substantial. Here's what they generated in 2009:

• $375 million in total revenue
• $226 million increase in total revenue compared to 2008
• 1,770 full-time equivalent employees
• 535 net new jobs projected for 2010

Colorado Companies to Watch is organized by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in association with economic development councils throughout the state. The panel of independent judges selected the companies based on such factors as employee or sales growth, entrepreneurial leadership and sustainable competitive advantage.

"Our state's strong entrepreneurial spirit is helping to move Colorado forward," Gov. Bill Ritter said. "The Colorado Companies to Watch program is great way to show appreciation of our home-grown Colorado businesses. These second-stage companies have helped to grow our economy even during tough times."

The program was developed by the Edward Lowe Foundation, which was created in 1985 by the late creator of Kitty Litter and his wife, Darlene, to promote entrepreneurship. The foundation also has established Companies to Watch programs in Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, upstate California and Wisconsin.

"All of these amazing companies don't typically get recognized because maybe they're adding five jobs or 10 jobs or 20 jobs, and they don't have those big press pulls like some of the others," said Penny Lewandowski, director of entrepreneurship development for the Edward Lowe Foundation. "Whether it's good times or bad times, to know you have such a strong cadre of companies in your state is just a really, really powerful message."

Companies selected must be privately held, employ six to 99 workers, generate $750,000 to $50 million in sales or a similar range of working capital and be headquartered in Colorado.
From 2006 through 2009, these companies have generated $1 billion in revenue and added 1,042 employees, reflecting a 134 percent increase in revenue and 144 percent increase in jobs for the four-year period. That translates into a 34 percent annual revenue growth and a 35 percent annual growth in employees.

These companies project continued growth in 2010, with a 60 percent revenue increase and 30 percent growth in employees. If their projections hold, these companies will have generated $1.6 billion in revenue and added 1,581 employees over five years - a 274 percent increase in revenue and 218 percent increase in jobs since 2006.
Although the Front Range is heavily represented, companies from more remote areas like Pagosa Springs, Steamboat Springs and Durango also made the cut.

Friday, June 18
5:30 p.m. registration and reception,
6:30 p.m. dinner and awards
Denver Marriott City Center, 1701 California St.,
Cocktail Attire
Individual tickets: $125, corporate table of 10: $1,100
For reservations: www.colorado.companiestowatch.org
The Marriott is offering a special $99 lodging rate. Check the website above to find a link to the offer.

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Mike Cote

Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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