How have past winners of the Northwest 100 fared since topping the charts.
During the 1990s, the little software shop from Redmond became the premier growth company in the country.
Despite its continued dominance of the desktop, Microsoft faces a host of competitors on multiple fronts: Apple, Linux, Yahoo and, especially, Google. In response the company has done a lot of things that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago: it laid off hundreds of workers, borrowed money, started paying a dividend and, just last month, made available a free version of its Office suite.
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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 had too much debt to compete against deep-pocketed food giants; Kellogg has owned the brand since 2007.
1994: Micron Technology
The first Idaho company to top the Northwest 100, semiconductor maker Micron initially was backed by potato king J.R. Simplot — leading to an inevitable barrage of “potato chips to computer chips” quips.
1995: Micron Technology
As one of the world’s major suppliers of memory chips, Micron’s fortunes wax and wane with the global economy. The recession has been hard on Micron — it posted net losses each of the past three fiscal years — but the company turned a profit the first half of this year with sales up 55 percent.
1996: Olympic Cascade Financial
Despite one of the all-time great Northwest names, the parent of Seattle brokerage National Securities has had a rough several years. Now known as National Holdings and headquartered in New York, the company’s stock was delisted in 2004 and it’s lost money for the past two years.
The Hillsboro, Ore., maker of media servers and communications-networking equipment has shifted away from custom-designed products toward “standards-based” ones. But the going has been rough: RadiSys hasn’t posted an annual net profit since 2005.
1998: Labor Ready
The Tacoma temporary-help company has undergone considerable change since topping the list. For one thing, it’s now called TrueBlue, a name chosen to reflect its blue-collar orientation. Demand for temporary workers rises and falls with the overall economy, and TrueBlue’s results reflect that: Revenue was off 26.4 percent and the company closed a net 96 branch offices, though it did post an $8.8 million profit.
1999: Lithia Motors
Outside of banking and real estate, few industries were hit harder by the financial crisis than the auto business. Lithia, headquartered in Medford, Ore., has dramatically shrunk its network of dealerships — sometimes on its own, sometimes involuntarily as a consequence of GM’s and Chrysler’s bankruptcies. Lithia now has 85 stores in 12 states in the West and Midwest, down from a peak of 109 stores in 15 states.
2000: Advanced Digital Information Corp.
The Redmond data-storage company, known as ADIC, reaped a sweet reward for surviving the tech wreck: In 2006, it was bought by San Jose, Calif.-based Quantum for $770 million.
2001: Metro One Telecommunications
Then there was this Beaverton, Ore., directory-assistance company, which never really recovered from the popping of the telecom bubble and the decision of many mobile-phone providers to automate their 411 services. After years of losses, Metro One sold off most of its assets in 2008 and shut down operations.
2002: Flir Systems
Flir, headquartered south of Portland, has succeeded by mastering one core 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 third repeat winner.
2004: Barrett Business Services
Several years ago, this temporary-help company in Vancouver, Wash., expanded into “professional employer organization” services — essentially, enabling companies to save money on workers’-compensation costs by piggybacking on Barrett’s lower rates. The PEO business started as a sideline; last year it accounted for more than half of Barrett’s total revenue.
2005: PW Eagle
The Eugene, Ore., maker of plastic pipe built itself into a nationwide player through a series of acquisitions, but activist hedge funds — impatient that the market didn’t seem sufficiently impressed by the company’s success — pressed management to put PW Eagle up for sale.
2006: PW Eagle
The fourth repeat winner, PW Eagle was bought out by rival J-M Manufacturing for about $400 million. The new owners shut down the pipe factory outside Eugene in 2007, but a group of key former employees bought the plant, renovated it, rehired many of the laid-off workers and resumed production in August 2008. Meanwhile, the merged company (now called JM Eagle) faces accusations that it knowingly sold defective pipe to municipal water systems.
2007: Hecla Mining
Results at the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, company vary considerably from year to year, and depend largely on market prices for silver, gold, lead and zinc. Higher gold prices, as well as the acquisition of full ownership of the Greens Creek mine in Alaska, led to sharply higher sales and a return to profitability last year.
2008: Flir Systems
The first three-peat in Northwest history.