For some companies, topping the Northwest 100 was just a hint of bigger things to come; for others, it marked the high point of their corporate...
For some companies, topping the Northwest 100 was just a hint of bigger things to come; for others, it marked the high point of their corporate lives. Here’s a look at 16 years’ worth of winners and what became of them:
During the 1990s, the little software company from Redmond was the premier growth company in the country.
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The software maker still ranks as one of the richest and most successful companies of all time. But challenges to its domination of the desktop are mounting, especially from Google: Microsoft’s recent hostile bid for Yahoo was aimed primarily at creating an online-advertising counterweight to Google. From developing the Xbox and Zune to buying cellphone-software maker Danger — and trying to strike a revised deal with Yahoo — Microsoft is gearing up for a long battle.
1993: WHOLESOME & HEARTY FOODS
The Portland maker of Gardenburgers renamed itself after its main product in 1997, and briefly rode a wave of interest in meatless products and healthful living. Ultimately, though, it was too small and too indebted to compete against deep-pocketed food giants. After being delisted in 2001, Gardenburger moved its headquarters to California, filed for bankruptcy protection, and emerged in 2006 as a private company. Cereal maker Kellogg bought it last November.
1994: MICRON TECHNOLOGY
The first Idaho company to top the Northwest 100, semiconductor maker Micron initially was backed by potato king J.R. Simplot.
1995: MICRON TECHNOLOGY
The second repeat winner. Despite efforts to diversify beyond its main product, dynamic random-access memory chips, Micron remains very much subject to the boom-and-bust cycles of the chip business: Last year, due to low DRAM prices, it lost $320 million and laid off more than 1,100 workers.
1996: OLYMPIC CASCADE FINANCIAL
The parent of Seattle-based brokerage National Securities has had rough sledding since moving its headquarters to Chicago in 1998. Now known as National Holdings and headquartered in New York, the company has had several run-ins with federal and industry regulators; its stock was delisted in 2004 and now trades on the OTC Bulletin Board; and its former CEO has accused its current CEO of fraud (the case is in arbitration). Last year the company agreed to merge with another small financial-services firm, vFinance of Florida; that deal is expected to close later this month.
The Hillsboro, Ore., company, which makes media servers, communications-networking equipment and a variety of other hardware and software products, has shifted its focus away from custom-designed products toward “standards-based” ones. But the going has been rough: Last year RadiSys posted a loss of $17.6 million — its second annual loss in a row — on revenue of more than $325 million. One customer, Nokia Siemens Networks, accounted for almost 44 percent of the company’s revenue.
1998: LABOR READY
The Tacoma temporary-help company has undergone considerable change since its win a decade ago. For one thing, it changed its name last year to TrueBlue, allegedly to better reflect its blue-collar orientation. It’s also acquired a string of competitors in recent years: light-industrial temp agency Spartan Staffing in 2004, construction-labor provider CLP Resources in 2005, and Skilled Services and PlaneTechs last year. But TrueBlue may be feeling the blues from the slowing economy: Profit last year fell 13.4 percent, to $66.2 million, and the company closed a net 18 branch offices.
1999: LITHIA MOTORS
From its home in Medford, Ore., this auto retailer has expanded across the West and Midwest, though the pace has slowed dramatically from just a few years ago. Lithia now has 109 stores in 15 states, from Alaska to Wisconsin; last year it opened three stand-alone used-car lots under the L2 Auto moniker. But rising overhead costs contributed to Lithia’s annual net profit shrinking each of the past two years, and the sluggish U.S. economy led to a 9.7 drop in revenues in the first quarter of this year.
2000: ADVANCED DIGITAL INFORMATION CORP.
The Redmond data-storage company, known as ADIC, got a sweet reward for surviving the tech wreck earlier this decade: In 2006 it was bought by San Jose, Calif.-based Quantum for $770 million.
2001: METRO ONE TELECOMMUNICATIONS
Another case of a Northwest 100 winner falling on hard times. The collapse of the telecom bubble hammered the Beaverton, Ore., company, which hasn’t reported a quarterly profit since the middle of 2003. After most of the customers for Metro One’s directory-assistance services went elsewhere, the company announced earlier this year it would exit that business entirely. Metro One is pinning its turnaround hopes on being, essentially, a call center for hire.
2002: FLIR SYSTEMS
This Portland company has succeeded by mastering a single technology — infrared imaging — and finding more and more applications for it, from night-vision cameras used by the military to home-inspection devices used by suburbanites.
2003: FLIR SYSTEMS
The NW100’s third repeat winner. Flir has continued to prosper, though not without a few bumps along the way: After the backdated-options scandal broke, a company investigation found that options granted between 1995 and 2000 — under previous management — had been improperly dated. Flir settled four of five shareholder lawsuits stemming from the backdating scandal and took a $14.3 million noncash charge to account for the suspect options.
2004: BARRETT BUSINESS SERVICES
Several years ago, this temporary-help company headquartered in Vancouver, Wash., expanded into outsourced human-resource management — essentially letting clients save money by piggybacking on Barrett’s lower workers’ compensation costs. Last year, that “sideline” business brought in nearly half of Barrett’s $289.2 million in gross revenues.
2005: PW EAGLE
The Eugene, Ore., maker of plastic pipes built itself into a nationwide presence though a series of acquisitions; its size came in handy when hurricanes Katrina and Rita squeezed supplies of plastic resin. But activist hedge funds pressed for PW Eagle to sell itself to the highest bidder.
2006: PW EAGLE
The NW100’s fourth repeat winner, though it will win no more: Last summer rival J-M Manufacturing bought out PW Eagle for about $400 million.