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AZ Companies to Watch

Celebrating Second-Stage Entrepreneurial Companies

Presented by the Arizona Small Business Association in conjunction with the Edward Lowe Foundation

Gov. Jan Brewer

The businesses of the 2009 class of Comerica Bank Arizona Companies to Watch represent the determined, innovative spirit necessary to advance our great state. I am especially pleased to extend my congratulations and gratitude to this year’s recipients.

This prestigious recognition celebrates second-stage companies that employ from 10 to 100 people and generate between $750,000 and $100 million in gross annual revenue. These businesses are beyond the startup phase, possessing the capacity for significant growth, generating jobs and innovating new products and services. They make extraordinary contributions to our economy and to our communities.

The focus I have both as governor and as an Arizonan is where our state will be in the coming decade with regard to economic opportunities for our children and families — this is very real to me. Cultivating and sustaining stable jobs must be our highest priority. We must continue to take care of Arizona companies so they stay and grow jobs in our state.

Arizona, the nation and the world have been impacted by slowing economic conditions. It presents significant challenges — but also opportunity. Many of the companies we recognize today are seeing positive results. These companies are vital contributors to Arizona’s economic health and are critical to the well-being of the Arizona business community.

Arizona is a unique landscape ripe with opportunities for businesses. Please join me in honoring the 2009 Comerica Bank Arizona Companies to Watch recipients. We celebrate your current achievements and look forward to your future successes.

With appreciation,
Janice K. Brewer
Governor, State of Arizona

Edward Lowe Foundation

When Ed and I founded the Edward Lowe Foundation in 1985, we wanted to encourage entrepreneurship and a vibrant U.S. economy. In recent years, the foundation has concentrated its efforts on two key audiences: 1) Second-stage companies powered by entrepreneurs that have moved beyond the startup phase and are focused on growth issues rather than survival; and 2) entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) that assist second-stage businesses and are the catalysts for growing their economies from the inside out by helping existing companies in the community.
To serve these audiences, we have developed a variety of tools and initiatives. In many ways, Companies to Watch creates a pipeline for these programs by identifying outstanding second-stage companies.

Celebration and recognition — Companies to Watch generates greater visibility in the marketplace, drawing attention to second-stage companies as a whole and to individual businesses. Honorees tell us that the program has boosted confidence levels for them with existing customers and suppliers. It has led to new opportunities for many firms. And for second-stage CEOs who spend so much time cheering on the troops, the award is a rare pat on their backs.

Life beyond the awards ceremony — Honorees have taken advantage of other Edward Lowe Foundation programs, such as our PeerSpectives roundtables and leader retreats at Big Rock Valley in Michigan. In fact, we’ve created a retreat format especially for Companies to Watch that gives newly named and past honorees a chance to meet and learn from each other.

Finding peers — This kind of networking is important because second-stage companies typically fly under the radar screen. By their very nature, second-stage entrepreneurs are fixated on their businesses, pressed for time and skeptical of joining groups. This makes it hard for them to find peers to share best practices.

It also make it difficult for ESOs to reach out to second-stagers. And even though many ESOs originally focused on startups, more organizations — such as the Arizona Small Business Association — are starting to target second-stage companies because of their immediate, sustainable impact on the economy. Through its application and nomination process, Companies to Watch helps ESOs discover new clients to serve, better assess their needs and tailor resources especially for these growing businesses.

What’s more, Companies to Watch creates a ready-made pool for researchers and policymakers to study second-stage entrepreneurs and track their impact. This is especially true in Arizona, which now counts four classes of honorees.

By helping second-stage entrepreneurs on their growth journey, and by helping ESOs expand their reach and capacity, the foundation hopes to be a catalyst for innovation and change. For even though Ed supported entrepreneurship broadly, he always believed that it was the second stage that was the greatest source of job creation. He would be delighted with the foundation’s focus on this important group, because the success of second-stage companies benefits not only the local communities i, n which they do business, but our entire nation.

Darlene Lowe
Chairman,
Edward Lowe Foundation

ASBA

The Arizona Small Business Association (asba) is honored to present the 2009 Comerica Bank Arizona Companies to Watch awards program. The program celebrates second-stage entrepreneurs and is done in association with the Edward Lowe Foundation. A special thank you to all our sponsors, including the event title sponsor, Comerica Bank.

Congratulations to this year’s remarkable honorees. This award is given to high-performing, second-stage businesses that boost economic growth and generate jobs in Arizona. It highlights the significant impact of second-stage companies on the state’s economy.

Over a four-year period ending in 2008, this year’s recipients have generated nearly $630 million in revenue and added 460 employees, a 148-percent increase in revenue and an 83-percent increase in jobs. That translates into 36 percent annual revenue growth and 23 percent annual growth in employees since 2005. If 2009 projections hold, these companies will have generated $849 million in revenue and added 559 employees in five years.

This has been a tough year for many businesses. There are many attributes that contribute to a company’s success. Perhaps the most important reason for small businesses’ survival is flexibility. When course correction needs to be made, small companies can pivot quickly. This ability to rapidly adapt and deploy new strategies often affords them a competitive edge over their larger corporate counterparts.

On behalf of all the members, staff and board of directors at asba, we extend our enthusiastic congratulations. We admire your courage, creativity and resiliency in these challenging times. Thank you for making Arizona a more vibrant place to work and live.

All the best,
Donna Davis
Chief Executive Officer
Arizona Small Business Association