By GOV. JOE MANCHIN
CHARLESTON -- Small businesses are the backbone of West Virginia's economy. In fact, 97 percent of Mountain State companies are small businesses. They employ more than 300,000 West Virginians.
Recently, the national business magazine Inc. listed two of these West Virginia small businesses among the fastest-growing, privately held companies in America. Vested Health of Charleston and Augusta Systems of Morgantown were named to the prestigious Inc. 500 list for 2007.
Inc. Editor Jane Berentson called Inc. 500 companies, "the most innovative, dynamic, fast-growth companies in the nation, the ones coming up with solutions to some of our most intractable ills, creating systems that let us conduct business faster and easier and manufacturing products we soon discover we can't live without."
With 2006 revenues of $9.7 million, and a more than 941-percent growth rate, Vested Health ranked 249 on the Inc. 500 list. Vested Health sets up and administers consumer-directed health plans for employers. These include medical savings accounts, health reimbursement accounts, and flexible spending accounts.
Augusta Systems develops software that makes business computer networks more intelligent. The software connects these networks to data from a wide variety of devices, from security cameras to sensors to electric-utility meters and more. Augusta Systems ranked 477 on the list, with 2006 revenues of $3.4 million and a growth rate of more than 620 percent. The company is expected to more than double its revenue in 2007.
Ranking on the Inc. 500 is an honor for these West Virginia businesses since the threshold for making the list is so high. To qualify, companies had to be U.S.-based, privately held and independent – not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies – as of Dec. 31, 2006. They were required to achieve at least $200,000 in revenue in 2003 and $2 million in 2006.
No doubt the achievements of these businesses can be attributed to the hard work of their employees. These entrepreneurs and workers persist daily to make their businesses and communities more prosperous.
I am happy to note that the state also helped position these businesses for success. Both Vested Health and Augusta Systems received start-up investment from the West Virginia Jobs Investment Trust (JIT), the state's venture capital fund. JIT develops, promotes and expands West Virginia's economy by making investments available to small and emerging businesses with the potential for growth.
Through resources like JIT, the West Virginia Development Office and the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, the state is working hard to assist entrepreneurs in achieving their dreams and to assist businesses as they work to expand our economy and create new opportunities.