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Colorado Companies to Watch 2014

They’re past their infancy, but they’ve still got some growing to do.

Consider this year’s 50 Colorado Companies to Watch teen-agers along the business spectrum, energetic second-stagers that have come a long way already and have the potential to go the distance.

“Colorado Companies to Watch recognizes and celebrates the businesses that form the backbone of the state’s economy,” said David Tolson, chairman of the board for Colorado Companies to Watch and managing director of Platinum Sponsor CapitalValue Advisors. “The 50 winners selected each year epitomize the hallmarks of a growth-oriented, second-stage company.”

With this year’s class – CCTW’s sixth – the program has honored 300 companies with the spark to fuel the state’s economic fire. It’s a group with knock-your-socks-off economic numbers: In the years in which they won, the companies generated:

•    $2.4 billion in annual revenue

•    43 percent growth

•    10,536 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees

•    2,735 net new jobs

In the four years leading up to winning their awards, companies such as Otterbox, Oskar Blues Brewery, Confio Software and Moots Cycles generated $6.4 billion in revenue – a 140 percent increase over those years – and posted a 133 percent rise in full-time equivalent jobs to 6,005. 

The 2014 winners – representing industries including technology, manufacturing, financial services, wellness and bioscience, among others – accounted for $413 million in total annual revenue in 2013, a 34 percent increase compared with 2012. They had 1,459 FTE employees in Colorado, with 448 net new jobs projected for this year.

From 2010 through 2013, the 2014 class of CCTW businesses generated $1.1 billion in revenue and added 1,005 employees (both in Colorado and out of state), reflecting a 141 percent increase in revenue and 131 percent increase in jobs for the four-year period. That translates into 34 percent annual revenue growth and 32 percent annual growth in employees.

To be considered, companies must be Colorado-based, privately held, employ six to 99 FTE employees and have $750,000 to $50 million in annual sales or a similar range of working capital. They are judged on past performance to demonstrate growth in hiring and revenue generation, and there are expectations for future growth based on product innovation and market penetration, Tolson said.

But that’s not all.

“It’s not enough to be a well-run business,” said Stephanie Steffens, CCTW founding program director and Colorado adviser and director for the Colorado Workforce Development Council. “These companies are integral to the communities in which they operate, and they are judged also for their community involvement, philanthropy and corporate culture.”

Winners become part of an elite group of companies recognized for their innovation, economic impact and community service, and receive individual recognition throughout the year, said Sam Bailey, board adviser and Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade representative.

“This is their time to shine and to celebrate as their employees and customers are cheered on by sponsors and community partners,” he said. “This ‘stamp of approval’ is a differentiator when prospecting for new clients, contracts or attracting talent.”

Company leaders benefit from gathering with peers through the Alumni Network, led by past winners under the auspices of CCTW.

“Being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely enterprise,” says Joy Kitamori, Companies to Watch national adviser for the Edward Lowe Foundation, which created the program. “Second-stage entrepreners, especially, experience unique challenges in this phase of growth. These business leaders connect and find camaraderie with others who are going through similar challenges.”

The Companies to Watch program sprang directly from the experience of Edward Lowe, creator of Kitty Litter, and his wife, Darlene. “Ed remarked late in his career about the isolation he experienced as an entrepreneur,” Kitamori says. “Second-stage leaders tell us that they experience greater fulfillment and make better business decisions as a result of interacting with their peers.

“Bringing these entrepreneurs together is a reward that keeps on giving.”

Read about the 2014 COCTW in these categories: defense & homeland security, financial services; bioscience, creative industries; tourism, energy; advanced manufacturing; health & wellness; infrastructure engineering; tech & information; food & agriculture.

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Lisa Ryckman

Lisa Ryckman is the Associate Editor/Online at ColoradoBiz. Contact her at lryckman@cobizmag.com.

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