In 1984, when Debbi E. Milner and her husband, John, founded the computer reseller Jade Systems Corp. in their home, they never dreamed they would be compelled to entertain so many employees. Then came the '90s and a spurt in growth. "The next thing we knew, there were eight of us in our bedroom," Debbi recalls.

Unable to find suitable commercially zoned space near their home in Cold Spring, N.Y., the Milners felt the best solution was to expand their company into a house next door that was on the market. But the city fathers had other ideas, as the Milners discovered when building-code administrator Tom Monroe came knocking. Turns out that the neighborhood was zoned for residential use only. "While I was cognizant of the zoning laws, I had been more focused on what we had to do," says Debbi.

She appealed to the city for time, citing such benefits to the community as the tax revenues and jobs created by Jade. Luckily, the city was responsive. "She employs local people. She pays taxes. If we had come down hard on her, she could have wound up in Dutchess or Westchester County," Monroe reasons.

Within a year, Milner bought a restaurant property close by and moved the company's operations into it. Jade, which expected revenues of $90 million for 1999, now employs 135 people and is filling up its space again.