For 30 years, Inc. and our marketing partners have celebrated Inc.'s rankings of the fastest-growing private companies in America. Never have the successes of small-business operators been as significant as they are today. Whether you look at micro trends—week to week, month to month, etc.—or macro data, you know that small and midsize businesses have driven, and will continue to drive, economic growth in this country.

In the larger picture, small businesses have long been a bellwether of emergence from difficult economies, according to economist David Birch. Look at figures from Automatic Data Processing, and you will find that since the employment recovery began in the private sector in February 2010, nearly 1.8 million jobs have been created—all by SMBs. In fact, 84 percent of all private-sector employees are in SMBs.

Inc. began chronicling fast-growth companies in 1979. When the rankings began—first, in 1981, with 100 private companies, then later with 500, and still later with 5,000—we had no idea how quickly the list would become an institution. But, if you consider SMBs to be the engine of the economy, the Inc. 500 may well be the fuel. This year's Inc. 500 companies posted aggregate revenue of $10.5 billion.

We thank our marketing partners for joining with us in acknowledging these economic heroes, the entrepreneurs who continue to be the nation's key job creators and stimulus providers. This support has helped our readers, Inc., and the Inc. 500|5000 Conference continue to defy norms and remain successful at nearly every point in recent economic history.

John M. Tebeau