A Look at the More Relevant Factoids

The 1996 Fast 50, among other things, created roughly 5,000 jobs in the last five years

P> Everybody loves a list; and one of the things we love about our annual list of the 50 fastest growing technology companies in the region is how much it reveals about our economy and its technology-based industries.

In 1995 for the first time, technology industries, especially infotech services, were widely acknowledged as the driver of the Greater Washington economy. What are the relevant 1996 Fast 50 factoids?

  • Companies on this year's list produced $1.4 billion total revenues in 1995 -- up from an aggregate of only $145.8 million in the 1991 base year, for five-year growth of 859.5 percent.

  • That five-year growth translates to more than 5,000 new jobs created.

  • Fast 50 companies and Fast 50 alumni had a good year in the public markets, led by No. 20 America Online Inc., which first joined the list in 1992 when it was still called Quantum Computer Corp. AOL's rise to almost $400 million revenues makes it the biggest company on the list. Its popularity and accompanying market performance created major pull-through for No. 33 UUNET Technologies Inc. and No. 39 PSINet Inc. in their glittering debuts in the public markets. And as counterintuitive as we may find it, AOL managed a four-digit growth rate despite boasting almost 10 times more revenues than the two newer Internet players.

  • Among other companies burnishing Washington's technology image is BTG Inc., a recently public Fast 50 alumnus growing by acquisition, which this year returned to glory as No. 45. One sour note: The company's stock recently dropped 10 percent due to investor concerns about how the government shutdown would affect the company.

  • MedImmune, one of Wall Street's big gainers for 1995 in biotechnology, is also a Fast 50 alumnus.

Still, for all the drum beats of approval for this economy's technology base and the entrepreneurs who are leading it, sound travels slowly: A Census Bureau study of computer employment, based on 1993 county business patterns, and published last week in the New York Times, perpetuates the myth that regions are defined by state boundaries. The survey ranks California No. 1, with a $13.7 billion computer payroll, followed by Texas, which is No. 2 with $4 billion, Massachusetts is No. 3 with $3.3 billion, and New York is No. 4 with $3 billion. Virginia claims fifth spot with $2.4 billion and Maryland is among the 17 elite with computer payrolls of $1 billion or more.

But when one groups Virginia and Maryland -- as Washington Technology does -- as a fair approximation of the Washington region, the total area is No. 2 with a $4.1 billion payroll.

One final note: The Fast 50 is one of the region's most valuable sources of data on the true state of entrepreneurship. And in 1995 the parent company of Washington Technology decided to license the concept to other technology-intensive regions -- including North Carolina, Tampa Bay, Silicon Valley and Southern California -- to create national recognition for the fastest growing technology companies: the National Technology Fast 500®.

The 1995 Fast 500, which included more than 50 companies from this region, had combined 1995 revenues of $200 billion and directly created approximately 650,000 technology-driven jobs in the preceding five years.

Esther Smith is CEO and president of TechNews Inc., and John Sanders is chairman

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