Even more than most issues of Inc., an Inc. 500 issue abounds with stories of success. In this one—Inc.'s 30th!—you'll hear from the CEO who saved his clients in a Mexican shootout, the escapee from reality-show fame, the former naval pilot who was shot at 17 times...that sort of thing.

We are always surprised when we dig up these stories—and at the same time, we kind of expect them. We believe that drama lurks in every one of these 500 very different companies in 25 industries. Is it possible to grow 500, 800, or 40,000 percent without having to rally the troops, make fast decisions, even change directions completely? All this takes a leader with a vision and the ability to see it through. The road forward is never completely smooth.

Inc. 500 issues usually include a photographic portfolio, often on the nonwork lives of the CEOs. This year, we've turned our attention to their employees, the fortunate Americans who have good jobs at thriving companies. These people are as varied and interesting as the U.S. itself, but they all share the experience of working for someone determined to build a great company. We publish their photographs and stories as a tribute to them and to the Inc. 500 CEOs, who have added, in the past three years, more than 35,000 jobs to the economy. Here, you'll find the portfolio, titled "A Celebration of Inc. 500 Workers."

It's good to keep in mind, however, that saving existing jobs can be as powerful as creating them. That's why we sent editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan to talk with James Goodnight, founder of SAS, a six-time Inc. 500 company, about how he's managed low turnover, a steadily expanding work force, and 35 years of uninterrupted revenue growth. This tremendously interesting conversation begins here.

I know from experience the benefits of working for an Inc. 500 honoree, in my case Joe Mansueto, founder and CEO of Morningstar, which appeared five times on the list before going public in 2005. Joe swooped in when Inc. and its sister publication, Fast Company, were on the block, and has been our benevolent owner ever since. What I've learned as editor of Inc., I can underscore as an employee of an Inc. 500 CEO: These people are a special breed.

Jane Berentson