California is home to more women-owned companies than any other state in the nation, while Florida has the highest growth rate for women-owned businesses, according to new reports by the Center for Women’s Business Research.

The Washington-based group's two biennial reports, Women-Owned Businesses in 2006: Trends in the U.S. and 50 States and Women-Owned Businesses in 2006: Trends in the Top 50 Metropolitan Areas looked at growth between 1997 and 2006.

In the United States, there are some 7.7 million firms that are majority-owned by women and contribute $1.1 trillion in revenue to the economy.  In addition, the number of these companies is growing at a rate nearly twice the national average.

“Between 1997 and 2006, the performance of majority women-owned firms outpaced the economy as a whole,” Marjorie Alfus, the center's chairwoman, said in a statement.

While many of these firms do not have employees, the report found that the number of women-owned companies with employees increased 17 percent over the past decade.

Florida was identified as home to five of the top 10 fastest-growing metro areas for women-owned firms. Among them were Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando, and Miami.

Arizona, Hawaii, Georgia, and New York followed Florida in having the largest gains in the number of women-owned businesses.

The reports also found that the nation's South Atlantic region -- which includes Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia -- showed the most growth for women-owned firms. Between 1997 and 2006, that region's women-owned businesses increased 72 percent to 1.3 million, while sales grew 15 percent and total employees increased 15 percent. The number of women-owned firms with employees jumped 24 percent.