Houston has held up well in the recession, thanks to its position as a power hub for Texas's energy industry: 5 of the state's 6 Inc. 500 companies in the category are based in the metropolitan area, including the Houston area's two fastest-growing companies, StarTex Power (No. 30) and Oil Chem Technologies (No. 38).

Texas's economic fortune extends across its metropolitan regions, as Dallas's strong showing on the Inc. 500 indicates. It is home to Texas's fastest-growing company, One Technologies (No. 8). The area also has particular strengths in health and IT services, hosting three companies in each category.

Together, business services, software, and consumer products and services account for more than half of the companies in the Seattle metropolitan area. In the city of Seattle itself, the company with the highest rank is Prep Sportswear (No. 87).

Things aren't looking quite as peachy this year for Atlanta: the metro area claims 12 fewer companies on the Inc. 500 than last year. But it still contributes the lion's share of its state's representation on the list. Its evergreen industries include finance, IT, and business services, to which its highest-ranking company, Clear Harbor (No. 53), belongs.

Boston's roster of Inc. 500 companies stays true to its reputation as a center of innovation. The area is home to industry leaders Kiva Systems (Logistics and Transportation, No. 6), whose robots power order fulfillment for Zappos, and Ahura Scientific (Security, No. 25), which makes devices that quickly identify hazardous chemicals.

Though San Francisco is generally regarded as a technology hub, companies from many different industries represent the city on the Inc. 500 this year. The consumer products category holds the greatest number of area companies, including industry leader Perfect Fitness (No. 4).

Although Chicago's economy has not fared well in the past year, the metropolitan area's representation on the Inc. 500 remains strong. Just as last year, all of Illinois's Inc. 500 companies are based in the area; 10 of them are within city limits. The area has most depth in the IT services category, in which it boasts four companies, including The Glenture Group (No. 149).

Though the New York City area is a hub of growth companies, many of them are located outside of the city's five boroughs. For example, the fastest-growing retail company, Diapers.com (No. 35), is based in Iselin, New Jersey. Within the city limits, the top company is MediaTrust (No. 9).

Despite its home state struggling fiscally, Los Angeles has managed to increase its share of bright spots in the economy. The area's roster of Inc. 500 honorees includes the top financial services and human resources companies (National Retirement Partners, No. 2, and Workway No. 64, respectively). While Los Angeles itself contributes seven companies to the list, adjacent Irvine bests the city with eight of its own.

In tough times, the government keeps spending. That has helped keep the D.C. area atop this list: more than half of the area's companies work primarily for the government. All but 6 of them are located in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, however. But despite the predominance of government services companies in the area, Washington's highest-ranked company overall is Harley Stanfield (No. 3), a real-estate development business.

Published on: Dec 1, 2009