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Globe 100 | Overview

The big comeback: The Globe 100 returns to full strength

For the first time in three years, there are 100 of the state’s top-performing public companies in our annual ranking.

Illustration by Mitch Blunt

Here’s one more important sign of economic recovery: The Globe 100 is back.

The Globe’s annual list of top-performing public companies in Massachusetts never went away. But for the past two years, the toll of a deep and damaging recession left fewer than 100 companies qualified for the rankings.

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In 2010, the Globe 100 ranked a mere 82 companies; last year, there only 90 businesses on the list. A requirement of the Globe 100 - that companies must have made money for each of the two previous years - squeezed many out of consideration.

Not this year. Plenty of Massachusetts companies qualified as contenders for the Globe 100. That’s a more-than-encouraging sign for business and the economy. It’s a comeback in its own right.

The return of so many companies to this year’s Globe 100 list is really a story about 2009. That was the year many businesses hit bottom and lost money. But most have been recovering since then.

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Overall, 24 companies that were ineligible in both 2011 and 2010 made the list this year. Among them are three of the top 10 and nearly one third of the top 20, including this year’s top company: Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Cambridge.

There were all kinds of companies - large and small, from a variety of industries - that returned to eligibility this year.

A few in the pharmaceutical or biotech industries broke through to sustained profitability after years of losses developing products. Momenta falls into that category, as does Dusa Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Wilmington.

Big companies with familiar old names have also returned to the Globe 100 after a two-year hiatus. A couple of examples for Boston: financial leader State Street Corp. and chemical giant Cabot Corp.

Boosted by big demand for technology products, companies in businesses related to the semiconductor industry also came back to the Globe 100 this year. Teradyne Inc. of North Reading and Brooks Automation Inc. of Chelmsford both returned to claim spots among the top 50 companies.

The recovery can also be seen through a different lens - substantial revenue growth up and down the roster of Massachusetts public companies.

Fifty-nine businesses on the current Globe 100 list reported double-digit revenue growth last year. Even more impressive: Nearly one in every four said annual revenues grew by more than 20 percent.

A variety of financial companies posted large revenue gains, including Affiliated Managers Group of Beverly, Hanover Insurance Group of Worcester, and Berkshire Hills Bancorp of Pittsfield.

But big revenue gains were most consistently reported by companies that made high tech products or used technology to transform older businesses.

Vistaprint Ltd., the Lexington company that sells printed business material online; athenaheatlh Inc. of Watertown, a growing electronic medical records technology vendor; and Acme Packet Inc., a Bedford telecommunications company, all reported 2011 revenue growth in excess of 25 percent.

For all the attention deserved by the wave of companies returning to the Globe 100, a handful of other businesses that performed best in the worst of times remained high in the rankings this year.

IPG Photonics Corp., the Hudson company that makes high power fiber lasers, turned heads when it ranked third in last year’s list.

This time, IPG moved up one more notch to number two, thanks to booming revenue growth and fatter margins.

Two other top 20 companies from last year’s list - number seven, EMC Corp. of Hopkinton, and eighth-ranked Skyworks Solutions Inc. of Woburn - both held their places in this year’s rankings.

Put all those companies together and you can take the measure of a real a business recovery. This is the year the Globe 100 returned to its fighting weight.

Steven Syre is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at syre@globe.com.
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