Ernst & Young reports that among the 636 companies competing for its nationwide Entrepreneur of the Year award, hiring was up 31% in 2011 to nearly 700,000 people, compared to two years earlier, and revenue grew 48% to $165 billion. 

"A lot of these companies are led by entrepreneurs who are visionaries and passionate to bring new ideas to market. They see opportunities others probably have missed," says Bryan Pearce, director of the Entrepreneur of the Year program in the Americas. "You cannot grow at this rate if you're just trying to steal share from someone else."

The Ernst & Young finalists, which was whittled down from a total of 1,699 nominees, include: Gogo, the in-flight wireless company;, which helps users trace their lineage;, a vacation home rental site; and DSW, the discount shoe store. 

The industry hiring the most people, according to Ernst & Young's data, is also the one with the highest rate of revenue increase. In energy, clean technology, and natural resources, hiring is up 49% from 2009, while revenue is up 87%. This batch includes companies like Viridian Energy, Cliffs Natural Resources, and Laredo Petroleum.

Pearce notes a strong performance among those companies that received venture capital or private equity funding. While hiring in that group of 213 companies was up 32% (on par with the total group of finalists), revenue shot up 178%.

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