Sunday, September 19, 2010

Randy McClain: Economy changes face of Nashville's Future 50

Every year since the early 1990s, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has honored private businesses expanding at a rapid clip with its Future 50 awards. The awards, sponsored in part by The Tennessean , are now entering their 19th year.
The idea is to cast a spotlight on corporate rising stars in the Nashville area — the kind of companies that are adding sales and jobs, helping the local economy forge ahead in good and bad times alike.

The winners also reflect their times. This year, more than half of the 50 winners have technology-related operations. They develop and sell software; handle online marketing chores; or provide electronic solutions to pay the bills, track financial records or interact with customers across a wide array of industries.

The flip side of that equation is that old-line firms don't show up on this year's list so much. For instance, the only construction company that pops up for the 2010 awards is the $39 million-a-year in revenue SouthLand Constructors, based in Brentwood.

Three years ago its revenues nearly doubled year over year. For 2010-11, though, it projects sales to be flat as construction work slows because of a weakened economy.

After the lull, though, SouthLand expects its revenues to increase by 10 percent to 12 percent a year. Still, SouthLand has managed to add 16 employees since 2007, and that's really the bottom line for any Future 50 winner.

How to reinvent yourself

Compare SouthLand's growth rate with a tech company such as Future 50 winner Ingenuity Associates, also of Brentwood, which saw sales double last year for its information technology consulting services. It has grown from three employees to 20 in a three-year period.

Then there's an evolving company such as DSi, Document Solutions Inc., which transformed itself from a photocopying service for law firms and a document-scanning provider into something much more. Today, partners Tom Turner and Kevin Tyner help attorneys and corporations with electronic screening of documents when complex lawsuits or other legal tight spots arise.

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