For the first time in its 26-year history, the Inc. 500 list of the nation's fastest-growing private companies will be open to franchisees, Inc. and announced this week.

The move follows a 10-fold expansion of the annual list to 5,000 businesses to identify and recognize a wider variety of fast-growth companies.  

The addition of franchisees will provide "a more comprehensive overview of the small business economy," said Edward Sussman, president of Mansueto Digital, which publishes

"Franchise owners run fascinating small businesses, which are also economically very important to their communities," Sussman said. "For the first time, the expanded size of our list affords us the opportunity to capture info about this group." 

Franchised businesses account for almost 10 percent of the U.S. private-sector economy and generate a total economic output of more than $1.53 trillion, according to a recent report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers on the Economic Impact of Franchised Businesses.

All companies selected for the Inc. 5,000 will be listed on and will have access to an extensive network of entrepreneurs. Companies listed on the Inc. 5,000 will also be invited to attend the Inc. 500 conference, an annual gathering of the nation's top entrepreneurs. This year's conference will be held Sept. 6-8 in Chicago.

The top 500 companies will still be designated as the Inc. 500 to be published in the September 2007 issue of Inc. magazine.

U.S.-based private companies that have recorded four full calendar years of revenue growth are eligible for the Inc. 5,000 list. Franchisees are encouraged to apply and can do so online at The deadline for submissions is April 15, 2007.