At a time when many insurers have pulled out of Florida, entrepreneurs Alexander Anthony and Albert Fernandez stepped in to provide coverage to businesses and homeowners in the state. Their company, Northern Capital Insurance of Miami, reached sales of $95 million in 2008. Today, Inc. magazine recognizes Northern Capital Insurance as the top company on the 2009 Inc. 500|5000, an annual ranking of the fastest-growing, privately-held companies in the United States.

Northern Capital Insurance's financials are indeed impressive. The company's revenue grew by 19,812.2 percent between 2005 and 2008, the period studied by the Inc. team to compile its annual list of America's top entrepreneurial ventures.

"If you want to know which companies are going to change the world, look at the Inc. 500," said Inc. editor Jane Berentson. "These are the most dynamic, fast-growth companies in the nation, the ones finding innovative solutions to problems, creating smart systems, and inventing products we soon discover we can't live without."

Despite the continuing recession, many industries were booming, including the health sector, insurance, and government services. Meanwhile real estate and construction saw a contraction. More than two thirds of Inc. 500 CEOs surveyed were optimistic about the economy and 96 percent have hired employees in the past year. The top 500 businesses have created more than 55,000 jobs, many of them in recent years, when employment has been sluggish.

The list debuted in 1981 as a ranking of the 100 fastest-growing private companies. The following year it expanded to 500 companies, and in 2007, it exploded to the Inc. 5000 on A major reason for this final change was so the list would present a better statistical picture of the overall economy.

Some quick facts about this year's list:

California has the most Inc. 500 companies, with 84. Irvine-based Vizio, a manufacturer of flat-panel TVs, is ranked No. 123 and is the largest company on the Inc. 500, with $2 billion in sales.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area boasts the largest concentration of Inc. 500 companies—42 in all. Most companies in the nation's capital are government contractors, and yet the fastest-growing business in the area is Harley Stanfield, a real-estate developer that plans to build a green resort in Las Vegas.

Though economists have identified 2007 as the year the current recession began, the companies on this year's Inc. 500 posted revenue growth into 2008. Combined, the 500 companies on the list reported aggregate revenue of $18.4 billion. In comparison, the companies on last year's Inc. 500 posted a combined $13.7 billion in revenue.

Alumni of the list who gained early exposure before becoming household names include Microsoft, GoDaddy, Under Armour, Jamba Juice, and American Apparel.

The complete 2009 Inc. 500|5000 list is available at