Hot markets rev up Top 100 engines

No. 37: Datapath

Leaped nearly 60 spots, landing at No. 37 with $327.4 million in prime IT contracting revenue.

Each year on the Top 100, a few companies make moves that are especially eye-catching.

Sometimes it's just the luck of the draw. A contract or two heats up beyond expectations, and a company pops onto the list. The contract cools, and the next year the company disappears.

On the 2005 Top 100, DataPath Inc. of Norcross, Ga., made its debut at No. 95. The company caught fire when the government increased spending on satellite communications.

But if you thought DataPath would fade away, think again. On the 2006 list, the company leapt nearly 60 spots, landing at No. 37 with $327.4 million in prime IT contracting revenue.

While DataPath's move might be the most dramatic, it isn't the only fast mover on this year's Top 100.

Verizon Communications Inc. rushed from the bottom half of the 2005 Top 100 ? it was No. 57 ? to No. 14, thanks to its acquisition of MCI Inc., which was No. 18 last year. An acquisition also propelled DRS Technologies Inc. of Parsippany, N.J., from No. 75 last year to No. 28 this year. It acquired Engineered Support Systems Inc., which was ranked No. 43 in 2005.

MTC Technologies Inc. of Dayton, Ohio, (No. 34) and NCI Information Systems Inc. of Reston, Va., (No. 71) each made upward climbs of better than 20 spots from last year. QSS Group Inc. of Lanham, Md., moved up 19 spots to No. 63.
Two companies, Gateway Inc. (No. 88) and Government Micro Resources Inc. (No 98), return to the Top 100 after an absence of several years.

Making acquisitions, particularly in DataPath's case, is just part of why many companies soared higher on the list.

Earlier this decade, DataPath was in an attractive segment of the market as a result of the government's need for satellite communications services to support operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots. The military also had begun to change the way it operated and had a growing need for more mobile, high-bandwidth communications. But DataPath was small and needed more resources to take advantage of the trend.

Enter White Oak Capital Group, an Atlanta private equity group, which acquired DataPath in 2004 for an undisclosed amount. With White Oak's backing, DataPath was able to expand beyond providing Earth satellite terminals to also offer broader network services, said Andy Mullins, DataPath's CEO.

Since 2004, the company has made acquisitions and invested in people and technology to bring on offerings such as mobile satellite solutions and switches and routers that connect satellite-based communications to ground-based networks. The company also has developed software and outsourcing services.

"The core of our business is satellite Earth terminals, but we've built out from that core," Mullins said. "We've had a lot of expansion in the breadth of our solutions."

Logistics services are an area that DataPath plans to continue to invest in to meet customers' needs for operations and maintenance of satellite terminal sites, he said. The company has 150 engineers, mostly in Europe and southwest Asia, supporting customer sites.

Training and wireless capabilities are other services DataPath is developing, he said.

"We've also rolled out software in the past year for remote management and control of networks, especially the satellite components," Mullins said.

Now that the company has revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it doesn't expect its growth to double or triple each year, he said. "But demand has not peaked in our market, and we expect it to be there for quite some time," he said.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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