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South Suburban Firms on Inc. 5000 List of Fastest Growing Companies

Carousel Checks in Bridgeview, Pens n More in Hickory Hills, Franchise Dynamics in Homewood, Meatheads and Cooper's Hawk experience remarkable growth.

By Dennis Robaugh

A handful of businesses in the Chicago Southland made the Inc. 5000 list of 2013's fastest growing companies, which includes 261 Illinois businesses employing more than 93,000 people.

An eclectic array of industries throughout the country made the list, from a media company for photographer moms and a suburban restaurant and winery chain to traditional insurance companies and construction firms.

Six south suburban companies made the list this year.

  • No. 792: Carousel Checks in Bridgeview, with 71 employees and $14 million in revenue, sells inexpensive parchment checks offering more than 3,000 different designs and types.

  • No. 1,083: Today's Growth Consultant in Minooka, outside of Joliet, with 18 employees and $2.4 million in revenue, is a business consultant firm.

  • No. 1,278: Pens N More in Hickory Hills, with 24 employees and $5.2 million in revenue, is a discount office products company specializing in discontinued and hard-to-find items.

  • No. 1,902: Franchise Dynamics in Homewood, with 28 employees and $3.6 million in revenue, is a company that helps other companies sell franchises.

  • No. 1,964: Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurants, based in Countryside with a location in Orland Park, with 1,834 employees and $71.3 million in revenue. The company added 1,300 jobs in the last three years. The company specializes in fine wine, fine food and accoutrements.

  • No. 2,470: Infutor Data Solutions in Plainfield, with 53 employees and $18.5 million in revenue, provides data to marketing firms.

Another company, Meatheads, which recently opened a location in Frankfort, is a seven-eatery chain based in Chicago. This purveyor of fine burgers made the list at spot No. 1,420, with 210 employees and $10.5 million in revenue.

One might think that Chicago-based firms would have dominated the list — and 91 of the businesses call the city of broad shoulders home — but more than half are in the suburbs, with 19 in towns far downstate or well outside the metro area. The suburb with the most firms on the Inc. 5000 list is Schaumburg, with 13, followed by Oak Brook with 10 and Naperville with eight.

In the last three years, 22 of the companies experienced a growth rate over 1,000 percent.

Writes Inc. magazine:

Management author Hermann Simon calls companies like these hidden champions, because they deliver outstanding performance while operating "in the 'hinterland' of the value chain, supplying machinery, components, or processes that are no longer discernible in the final product or service." As such, they are the sinews of our economic physiology. But jobs are also created by the thousands of organizations that constitute the Inc. 5000's customers. ...

The National Center for the Middle Market describes companies such as those on the Inc. 5000 as "model links" in corporate supply chains. ... "These businesses make and keep American companies competitive: Within their niches, they are as innovative and service oriented as the most beloved household names. But rather than strategize to build brands, they earn reputations simply by virtue of how well they do what they do. They grow reference by reference until every customer in their markets knows whom to call."

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