The Inner City 100
41. Digital Visual Display Technologies
DVDT sells highest-end audio and visual equipment to a national client base of government, academic, and corporate customers, and installs the equipment in settings that range from offices to convention centers. The company has also developed some interesting smaller niches: It frequently installs high-end equipment in boardrooms and on yachts.
42. Legal Network
Last fall, Special Counsel, a division of MPS Group, acquired Legal Network and expanded it from two markets to nearly 30, almost overnight. The company recruits lawyers to supplement the work force at firms that have recently taken on big cases. "It took me starting my own company and selling it to get the job I've always wanted," says founder Karl Schieneman.
Doing business with a government agency involves a certain amount of red tape. If that government agency is the Food and Drug Administration, the red tape can seem endless. Reglera helps medical device manufacturers and tissue banks navigate the regulatory maze to get their products and services to the market. The company was spun off from previous Inner City 100 company Enscicon.
44. Capitol Digital Document Solutions
Law firms hire Capitol Digital to store documents, mostly old e-mail. The business began as a copy shop with five Xerox machines in founder Lucas Mageno's living room. Capitol now has a dozen offices from Los Angeles to New York City, and plans to expand to Miami and Chicago soon.
45. Detroit Chassis
Detroit Chassis' automotive assembly plant can best be described as adaptable. In the company's seven-year history, its state-of-the-art assembly line has churned out chassis for vehicles ranging from 40-foot motor homes to a new hybrid auto. Next up: the half-motorcycle, half-car Merlin roadster.
46. ComFrame Software
ComFrame creates customized software applications for regional clients in the finance, health care, and manufacturing industries. Many customized apps fail, says ComFrame's founder, Marc Guthrie, because customers don't have enough involvement in the design process and are disappointed in the end product. So Guthrie writes into all contracts the promise that his consultants will hold weekly status meetings with customers.
47. Newport Furnishings
All sales at the Newport Furnishings retail chain are made through personalized orders to the manufacturer rather than off the show room floor. The idea, says company founder Chuck Haney, who runs the business with his wife, Denise, is to keep costs low while still meeting customers' exact needs. "My philosophy," Chuck says, "has always been look which way the crowd is going and then go the opposite direction."
48. Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels
Kim and Scott Holstein did the unthinkable: They started a business together when they were dating. The co-CEOs, who tied the knot about a year after founding the business, sell stuffed pretzels in a variety of flavors (spinach feta, cheddar jalapeno, and blueberry cobbler among them) on QVC and through chains such as Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, and Whole Foods. The company ships about 450,000 pretzels a week from its location in the Kinzie industrial corridor, west of downtown.
49. Schaller Anderson
Schaller Anderson manages self-funded health benefit plans for employers and Medicaid health plans for state governments. In the past year, the company has added 97,000 Medicaid enrollees in Delaware and 60,000 Arizona state employees and dependents, bringing the total number of people it services to 1.5 million. In dollar terms, the firm purchases $1.8 billion in health care services each year. And yes, CEO Joe Anderson has an opinion on what's wrong with the health care system. "The federal government needs to level the playing field and stop rewarding companies that shift costs instead of those that manage them," he says.
50. Somerset Capital Group
Somerset leases technology and equipment to companies like GE and IBM. The lessees rent equipment because it frees up cash and the lease payments are recorded as expenses. (The lease obligation appears as a footnote on their financials.) As for Somerset, based on the continuous payments it will receive from the lessee, it gets a bank loan to cover the rest of the equipment's cost.