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The Business Page

Welcome to the business page, a blog where I'll take you behind the scenes of greater Rochester's fast-changing economy. My name is Ben Rand, and I intend to introduce you to some of the personalities, concepts and events that make news in business here. I've been a business reporter for eight years in Rochester and a journalist for 18, working in four states. I grew up in Pittsford, but moved away after college for about a decade. My wife and I live in Irondequoit with our two children.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Top 100 Times

In case the weather ever failed us, we in the business section at the D&C have a pretty good reminder in our workload that a change of seasons is in the offing. It's time again for the Rochester Top 100, the annual list of the fastest-growing businesses in the Rochester region. The list measures revenue growth over three years; the data is collected by KPMG in conjunction with the Rochester Business Alliance. A special section regarding the 2005 Top 100 is available here.

For those of us who have been around a while, Top 100 assignments are sometimes met with groans. Been there, done that. But every year, the list contains a number of pleasant surprises, filled with intriguing companies, laboring under the radar, with inherently interesting stories, personalities and successes. Here are a few I encountered this year.

Retrotech Inc. of Fishers is an 85-employee company that bills itself as a provider of computer-controlled warehouses and retrofits of automated storage systems. Which, of course, sounds rather dry. But first impressions can be deceiving. Retrotech works with large companies to figure out how to use robotic equipment and software to move products from factory lines to delivery trucks. The goal is to design a system that gets the right orders to the right delivery trucks exactly on time. Retrotech's work is in line with the trend in the economy toward "just-in-time" inventory, where companies stock no more than what they truly need. Automated systems can help companies shave off costs to stay competitive in an economy increasingly influenced by low labor rates in Asia.

Stone Construction Equipment of Honeoye makes concrete cutting equipment, mixers and other construction equipment. Stone's approach to production is atypical. The company's workers put products together in "cells" rather than assembly lines. Workers in a cell are trained across disciplines, rather than in a single specialty.

Spex-Precision Machine Technologies of Rochester has a real man-bites-dog story. While many companies and retailers are importing products from China and the Asia-Pacific region, Spex goes the other direction. The company produces a special item for a customer and exports it TO Taiwan. It's a product that Spex has made for a particular customer for years, and no one has found a way to improve upon.

The list also includes other up-and-comers in the economy: Pictometry International of Henrietta; EMA Design Automation, which tops the list for the second year, and, of course, Wegmans Food Markets Inc.


Blogger Kevin said...

I was pleased to see Pictometry on the list. Definitely one to watch.

3:03 PM, November 07, 2005  
Blogger 1Bigcoach said...

May be we should look at these small businesses and give them some of the marketing money that GRE spends trying to lure in other BIG companies. I bet the small businesses will create just as many jobs and have better staying power. Better band for the buck!

7:24 PM, November 08, 2005  
Blogger Behind The Business Page said...

Hey Big Coach,

It's Ben. I think GRE has marketing efforts focused on both large and small companies. For instance, I just came from a Digital Rochester networking event co-sponsored by GRE. Featured at the event were two small but rising companies: DigiQuick (now Clix) and InSciTek. That said, one of the observations I've heard made about New York and venture capital is the scarcity of "early stage" venture funding. These are investments in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 that help companies prepare business plans and do the early work to move them to the next stage. There are a number of ideas being kicked around to address this, not the least of which is the construction of a network of "angel" investors. DigiQuick is one of those companies that has benefitted from angel investments. Just an FYI.

12:08 PM, November 09, 2005  
Blogger 1Bigcoach said...

Hi Ben,
Good info.. But that is only one- I have been working with small businesses for 15 years and believe me you have not seen the overall picture. I am not talking about high tech or fuel cell or bi-tech I am talking about the meat and potatoes type companies, there are thousands of them and they have great potential but are aways second class citizens.

We need to appreciate the total spectrum of small businesses much more and dedicate more white space to the basic small business owner.

All the bis boys get mucho white space and all they do is lay off employees - maybe we can split the difference?

5:02 PM, November 10, 2005  
Blogger Behind The Business Page said...

Hey, it's Ben again. Thanks for the response. I can't disagree. I wrote a piece a few weeks back about a fella who is starting an upholstery business in the Parsells Ave. area. It's an example of "microenterprise." I certainly learned during that story that there is not a lot of cash available for those types of businesses -- and those tend to be the businesses that are more closely anchored to a community. But there's a flip side: Microenterprises don't tend to grow very big. So it's a matter of deciding to place your bets where you get the biggest return.

5:13 PM, November 10, 2005  

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