Middle Tennessee's Fast50 - Part 2

The 2010 list of area companies that are fast-growing, emerging and brimming with promise. Here's the second batch of 25. [From the November/December issue of Nashville Post magazine]

Nashville Post’s Fast50 is our annual look at Middle Tennessee companies on a roll. Together, these companies represent some of the best the Nashville area has to offer in terms of entrepreneurial vision and growth.

From start-ups gaining their financial legs to more established companies whose mature growth is remarkable, this collection of companies — big and small, highly profitable and increasingly profitable, full of dreams or realizing them — is perhaps best described as a list of “companies to watch.”

Selection is based on numerous factors, ranging from revenue and employee growth to growth over a period of years, growth as compared to industry average, projected growth and projected pitfalls, among other criteria. But the Fast50 also involves editorial judgment. Many of the companies reflected here – as well as the first 25 on our list – applied to be considered for the list, but many were also chosen by our editorial staff based on an awareness of a company’s success or potential.

In sum, the first annual Nashville Post Fast50 spotlights companies that are enriching our local and regional economy, providing jobs and fueling the Mid-State’s entrepreneurial culture. These businesses speak volumes about the value of free enterprise — especially amid today’s challenging economic times. They aren’t a bad read, either.


Meridian Surgical Partners
Brentwood
David F. “Buddy” Bacon Jr.
CEO

Health care veterans “Buddy” Bacon (the former Medifax-EDI CEO), Kenneth Hancock (the ex-OrthoLink boss) and Catherine Kowalski founded this outpatient surgery operation in March 2006. As of July 2010, the company employed 207 people. The company partners with surgeons to development, acquire and manage ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs).

Shortly after receiving a $75 million investment from the Atlanta-based private equity group Arcapita, the company acquired three physician-owned ASCs in Florida, California and Nebraska. Meridian now owns a total of 12 ASCs in 10 states stretching from Florida to Oregon. Just last month, the company acquired a majority interest in City Place Surgery Center in Creve Coeur, Mo., near St. Louis.

An aging baby boomer population will likely create opportunities for increased case volume in ambulatory surgery centers, especially in specialties such as orthopedics, ophthalmology, gastroenterology, podiatry and urology. Due to technological advances, physician training, and reimbursement environment changes, minimally invasive spine procedures are expected to continue to migrate from an inpatient to outpatient setting. In 2009, Meridian grew same store sales by 13.5 percent, topping the industry average growth rate for same store ASC sales of 1.73 percent.

Paramore|Redd Online Marketing
Nashville
Hannah Paramore
President

Paramore|Redd Online Marketing is a full-service interactive agency located in the Gulch. It creates Web sites and online marketing campaigns that it promotes as simple, clear and focused on results. Started in 2002 after Paramore lost her fourth job in two years during the first dot-com bubble burst, the firm now boasts clients including the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the Gatlinburg Department of Tourism, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Healthways, Bluegrass Cellular, Backyard Burger and CompuPay.

Having grown from two employees at its inception to 25 employees today, the firm has also nearly doubled revenues since 2007 — and with a profit margin roughly double the average of traditional advertising agencies. Mainstream media’s loss has been Paramore’s gain as advertisers seek out what they believe to be more efficient or cost-effective ways to reach their target audiences.

The company’s revenue is split 50/50 between Web development and digital media. In the past 18 to 24 months, it has seen a huge shift in focus to social networking and expects that area to continue to grow over the next couple of years.

PathGroup
Brentwood
Ben Davis
Chairman, president & CEO

One of the nation’s larger pathology laboratories, and a regional pathology supergroup, PathGroup, along with its subsidiary, PathGroup Labs, and its affiliated physician group, Associated Pathologists, provides mainly anatomic (cell and tissue) pathology services to physicians across the Southeast and parts of the Midwest.

The 50-pathologist, 300-employee company competes on a regional basis with two publicly traded outfits — Quest and Laboratory Corp. of America. Earlier this year, PathGroup shifted into acquisition mode, announcing a leveraged recapitalization that raised more than $100 million in new capital.

Focused on treating disease in a day and age of aging population, and with significant new capital behind it, PathGroup appears well positioned for growth. Davis has led PathGroup since its founding in 1996. Previously, he was an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and School of Medicine.

PharmMD
Nashville
Bo Bartholomew
CEO

According to the Institute of Medicine, roughly 1.5 million Americans fall victim to a medication error each year — a shortcoming in the nation’s health care system (particularly during emergency room visits) that is costly and dangerous for patients. The co-founders of PharmMD saw firsthand the effects of medication errors in hospital emergency rooms and wanted to address what has become a nationwide epidemic of mismanaged medications.

Formed in 2006 with about $200,000 from local angel investors (including Clayton McWhorter), the company now employs 50 full-time equivalents — up from 15 a year ago. A medication therapy management company, PharmMD contracts mainly with large self-insured employers, health plans and government payers to provide software that tracks medical claims and medication information to determine if patients are taking the proper drugs, have multiple prescriptions that could have adverse interactions, or could switch to a cheaper generic version of their prescription. The result ensures that patients are using the best possible drug therapy at the lowest cost, revolutionizing the administration of medicines to reduce errors and limiting waste and expense by taking patients off of unnecessary medications.

There are still few players in this space, which will benefit from health reform and the increased focus on quality and cutting costs by CMS and payers. Late last year, the company received an $8.8 million infusion from private equity investors The Riverside Company and FCA Venture Partners IV.

Last year, the company also landed a very large client, California-based Prescription Solutions, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group Co., which manages more than six million Medicare customers. The company also recently introduced a new product to help health and drug plans increase their Medicare CMS Star Ratings — a 1 to 5 rating that can earn plans government bonuses of 1.5 percent to 5 percent.

Prime Colorants
Franklin
Endre Zongor
CEO

Plastics News first reported that this Williamson County-based color concentrates maker would increase production and hire more employees by the end of 2010 to handle newfound demand for its product, and that the company would likely expand from running two shifts, five days a week to six or seven days. Sales and marketing vice president Rick Hosto told Plastics News that the company is on track for sales growth of 40 percent in 2010.

That recent increase in sales from the automotive and consumer sectors at the 26-employee supplier to the plastics industry represents quite a turnaround for the firm that in late 2009 resolved its Chapter 11 filing and returned to normal operations after settling a dispute with a former shareholder. Prime Colorants operates four twin-screw extrusion lines and five liquid color lines at its 60,000-square-foot plant.

PureSafety
Franklin
William A. Grana Jr.
President & CEO

In response to the first and only fatal accident to occur at Thompson Machinery Commerce Corp., management launched an internal training management tool for Thompson and other heavy equipment dealers. The training tool soon demonstrated its value in many industries, and in April 1999, PureSafety became an independent company.

Today, the company provides customizable online safety training delivery and management solutions, as well as software solutions for managing incident reporting and investigation, workers’ compensation, disability and absence programs. Safety and health risks are a significant threat to any company’s workforce, reputation and profitability, and managing these risks — and the related compliance requirements — is a challenge for companies that PureSafety software and information solutions directly address.

Today, PureSafety’s solutions are used by over 2,000 organizations in more than 20 major industries, including 35 percent of the Fortune 500. PureSafety is currently in an aggressive growth phase and is a prime candidate to further consolidate the industry through acquisitions. The company is targeting one to two transactions per year for the next few years.

The company also continues to grow through innovation. CEO Grana was recently selected as the 2010 recipient of the “Risk Innovator and Responsibility Leader” award in the technology category by Risk & Insurance magazine for going above and beyond to develop unique and practical risk solutions that benefit a company’s customers, employees and the greater community.

Randa Solutions
Nashville
Marty Reed
President & CEO

Reed launched a small outsourced IT venture called Reed and Associates in 2001. His fledgling firm grew to include contracts with more than 100 small businesses in Nashville. “R and A” thrived in offering IT services and managed hosting for all its clients, but eventually became more focused working in high stakes testing in K-12 education and in helping this market in the technology arena.

Eventually rebranded as RANDA, the IT company has built quite a profile as a developer of software and aggregator of data for educators. Inc. magazine recently ranked the company as the fastest-growing company in Nashville, the 300th fastest-growing private company in the nation and No. 3 out of 50 in the education market on the Inc. 5000.

The company’s mission is to “change the face of education through leveraging technology to have a real impact on the industry.” It does so by providing the public education sector with assessment data management and historical and live data in comprehensible reports; by providing management tools to administrators and teachers; and by aggregating data from standard testing results, formative assessments, evaluations and demographics, delivering customized content via secure Web portals.

RFD-TV
Nashville
Patrick Gottsch
Founder & President

This 10-year-old cable television network that launched with essentially no funding and borrowed equipment now operates out of offices and studios in Nashville and Omaha, Neb., and is distributed into more than 40 million homes worldwide by DBS and cable systems including DISH Network, DIRECTV and Comcast.

As the nation’s first 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week television network dedicated to serving the needs and interests of people in rural areas, RFD-TV programming includes shows focused on agricultural, equine and rural lifestyles, as well as traditional music offerings and shows like Hee Haw and Crook & Chase.

RFD-TV proved “rural” has no boundaries when it went global in 2009, broadcasting to more than nine million subscribers from its London studio. Other units include a magazine (boasting more than 160,000 paid subscribers) and a theatre in Branson, Mo.

Richards & Southern
Goodlettsville
Terry & Sheri Calonge
Co-owners

It’s been a trying decade for the music industry. Online music availability and the attempt to control and monetize it has been an ongoing headache for labels, licensing outfits and royalty trackers alike. Fortunately for companies like Richards & Southern, not every profit-generating mainstay of the industry has been torpedoed.

The third-generation, family-owned merchandise design firm also specializes in manufacturing, tour support, sales and licensing for entertainment brands, not to mention businesses, schools, nonprofits and tourism clients. Formed in 1959 when Bob Calonge and wife Betty merged their souvenir business, Southern Post Card Co., with screen-printing operation, Richards Novelty Co., Richards & Southern recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

In the beginning, success stemmed from Nashville’s once up-and-coming country music scene and array of tourist landmarks. That exposure helped land clients like Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and many more. In a day and age when touring and merchandising are an even more crucial way for a musical act to generate revenue, Richards & Southern is in turn more crucial to the artists it represents: George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Alabama, Reba McEntire, Oak Ridge Boys, Lonestar and many others.

So-called “legacy acts” also benefit from the company behind the merch. In recent years, Richards & Southern launched a licensing campaign with a number of clients, including Kenny Rogers, the Charlie Daniels Band, George Jones and others, selling over 60,000 vintage T-shirts at Wal-Mart stores.

For those still on the road, the company assists in merchandise inventory control, logistics, transportation, accounting and other tour support. In return, clients gain profits and important branding and marketing tools. Technology, arguably a bane to the bottom line of many music-related endeavors, has not bothered Richards & Southern’s balance sheet at all.

In fact, Calonge points to a positive viral effect in sales for the company in the online market thanks in large part to the popularity of Facebook and other social media. Years ago, the company opened its first Web store for Kenny Chesney. Now, it has over 80 online stores for acts like Rascal Flatts, Gretchen Wilson and others.

Richland LLC
Pulaski
Jim Greene
President

Richland began as a steel sales and warehouse business in 1999, but has since expanded into much more. A licensed industrial contractor and steel fabricator specializing in industrial and municipal projects, Richland boasts expertise in steel fabrication, concrete, structural, mechanical, electrical construction and most recently, solar power.

That combination of divisions, skills, equipment and staff of 110 employees allows Richland to provide custom turn-key results from concept past completion. When the economy dipped and commercial and industrial construction went into a slump, Richland responded by making a bigger splash in the alternative energy industry in Tennessee.

Its sister company, Outpost Solar, has quickly emerged as a state leader in solar power initiatives. With a wave of electric cars about to hit the market, it only makes sense that Tennessee begin to build a plug-in network statewide. Outpost has a jump on that, developing and unveiling this past summer the first electric vehicle charging station powered by solar in the Southeast — located in the company’s parking lot.

Outpost Solar has contracts to build five more systems in Knoxville — at a marina, a restaurant and other commercial buildings. As the solar industry continues to grow, and with plenty of synergies between the two sister companies, the Richland/Outpost team would appear to have a strong competitive advantage in landing projects and growing profits.

Sarah Cannon Research Institute
Nashville
Dee Anna Smith
CEO

The best management of any cancer patient is a clinical trial. SCRI, which was founded almost six years ago by HCA and Tennessee Oncology, is a clinical research institute that conducts clinical trials, primarily in the oncology field.

Among the largest such research programs in the nation (number three in oncology patient accrual), SCRI boasts affiliations with a network of nearly 600 physicians in 25 states to conduct community-based clinical trials in oncology and other therapeutic areas. (The HCA affiliation certainly helps when it comes to physician recruitment.)

The institute will put about 4,000 patients into clinical trials this year. Last year, the number was closer to 3,200. SCRI also offers management, regulatory and other research support services to drug development sponsors and strategic investigator sites across the country.

Committed to advancing therapies and drug development, SCRI has tested 65 “first-in-man” compounds — meaning the first time a drug was given to any patient anywhere in the world, it was given here in Nashville. Of those 65 compounds, several are now approved on the market through the FDA. SCRI has grown from 20 employees to 300 in the past five years and revenues have increased close to 400 percent.

SeeMore Putter Co.
Franklin
Jim Grundberg, Jason Poulliot
Co-owners

Consumers crave the next great golf product to help them lower their handicap. They often discover that product by observing what equipment the pros use. In 2006, shortly after Grundberg and Poulliot, two former employees of golf club maker Odyssey, acquired SeeMore, pro golfer Zach Johnson gained international recognition by winning the Masters golf tournament — using a SeeMore putter.

That development jettisoned SeeMore’s new owners into the fast lane for sales in the multi-billion dollar golf equipment market. But it’s what the founders have done since that early surge of publicity that has been so impressive — and resulted in such consistently fast growth.

New product lines, increased marketing, greater awareness on the pro golf tour and hard work increasing the number of retailers selling the SeeMore product has sales up five-fold over the pair’s original investment. So how does the putter work? A red dot painted on the top of the putter must be hid by the shaft of the putter when a player looks down to putt. That, in turn, “squares” the putter, increasing accuracy.

Need more proof that it works? In 2009, five pro golfers using SeeMore putters on a regular basis on the PGA tour finished in the top 80 positions on the money list. All told, 10 players in the final 125 on the money list used SeeMore’s product at times during the season, including three victories and 11 top 10 finishes.

Seigenthaler Public Relations
Nashville
Beth Courtney
Chairman & CEO

In 1972, armed with less than $10,000 in personal funds, Tom Seigenthaler started this PR firm, building it in to a success with hard work and late nights. Today the firm is led by Elizabeth (Beth) Seigenthaler Courtney, who joined the agency in 1986 and was named CEO in 2004 following the untimely death of her father.

Partnering with her sisters Katie (CMO) and Amy (President), and cousin John, an NBC news anchor and award-winning journalist, the firm has experienced substantial growth through the years. It currently employs 25 professionals serving approximately 100 clients. O’Dwyer’s Directory of PR Firms listed SPR as 64th largest in the nation in 2010. This is a rise from 88th the year before.

Revenues have continued to grow during an economic period when many firms experienced marginal growth or declines. The firm’s offices in Chicago (opened in 2005) and New York (opened in 2008) have enabled it to attract major clients from these markets. And, in fact, the firm’s largest clients in 2008 and 2009 were based in Chicago and New York.

Simplex Healthcare
Franklin
Larson Douglas Hudson
Chairman & CEO

The diabetes epidemic in the U.S. has continued to accelerate with over 1.6 million new cases being diagnosed annually. By 2050, an estimated 48 million Americans will have type 2 diabetes. Founded in 2007 as Simplex Diabetic Supply, Simplex Healthcare is a national diabetes mail order supplier. The company has grown exponentially over the past few years.

In 2007, with 35 employees and a patient base of 20,000, Simplex secured $50 million in venture capital from New Enterprise Associates and acquired Diabetes Care Club. Since then, the DCC brand has grown to employ over 300 associates and serves around a quarter million patients. Last year, Simplex expanded its headquarters into a 91,253-square-foot-facility.

Smartvue Corp.
Nashville
Martin Renkis
Founder & CEO

Smartvue’s surveillance technology has protected clients ranging from the Masters Golf Tournament to the Museum of Modern Art in Philadelphia to the King of Jordan, to, locally, Beaman Automotive.

Founded in 1996 by Renkis, the former founder of Trainersoft Corp., an online learning software firm acquired by Boston-based Outstart in 2002, Smartvue provides “no wires” surveillance and remote monitoring to some of the world’s largest companies and government agencies. The pioneering company commercialized the first long range wireless network surveillance camera, advanced video compression camera, wireless video surveillance recorder and self configuring peer-to-peer surveillance platform, to name just a few innovations.

The revolutionary systems even allows users to check a home or business from their hand-held device. The company has more than 30 published and seven granted patents in the United States, China and Europe. Further proof of Smartvue’s upside is evident in the quality of its board, which includes noted Nashville-based economist Art Laffer and, as of October, David Dorman, current chairman of Motorola and former chairman and CEO of AT&T.

Sound & Video Creations (Click Effects)
Berry Hill
Cliff Wight and Fran Kowalski
Partners

Click Effects, a division of Sound & Video Creations, is setting the bar for the delivery, management and control of content for display systems in stadiums and arenas. Using a simple point and click system, Click Effects delivers scheduled and live impulse video clips, audio tracks, graphics, instant replays, animation and sponsor ads that not only entertain audiences but provide a source of revenue.

Click Effects systems have spearheaded live event productions for The Super Bowl, The Olympics, The World Series, The Final Four, The Stanley Cup, The NBA Championships and All-Star Game, The Rose Bowl, The Indianapolis 500 and several NASCAR events. In addition, Click Effects systems are used by 80 percent of Major and Minor League Baseball and over half of the NFL, NHL, and NBA (including the Titans and Predators).

Kowalski and Wright started out producing music for advertising campaigns. The successful jingle writers scored a series of 10 TV commercials for JCPenney. They then expanded into writing theme songs for sports teams. While meeting with the general manager of one team that used their talents, the team executive mentioned that if the pair could produce and market a compilation of stadium and arena sounds, effects and music on a cassette tape, they would find a large and receptive audience.

The two partners concluded that it would be extremely useful if all of that source material could be available on a computer, where a user could simply point and click and instantly access a sound at a game. A year later the pair introduced the Click Effects product at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings and Trade Show.

Systems began selling at a rapid fire pace and Click Effects quickly became the industry standard for in-game fan entertainment. The Click Effects product line later expanded to accessing video and sending it to a video board in a stadium or arena. The business, which launched in New Jersey in 1985 and relocated to Nashville in 1996, currently has 16 employees.

The increase in LED boards in sports venues (even at the high school level in America), as well as increasing worldwide sales are driving growth. (London is preparing for the 2012 Olympics, South America is preparing for the World Cup in Brazil and Dubai is presently constructing 17 new stadiums.)

SpecialtyCare
Nashville
Gary Brukardt
Chairman & CEO

SpecialtyCare provides outsourced clinical services to hospitals and health care providers in the United States. Around for four decades, the company was the first company in the country to provide cardiac perfusion services on a contract basis.

Today, it is the largest provider of outsourced perfusion, clinical technician, endoscopic services and other surgical blood management services in the nation serving more than 425 hospitals, including over 160 cardiac surgery programs at hospitals in 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The company employs more than 800 clinicians who perform over 200,000 procedures annually. Health care veteran Brukardt is the former CEO of Renal Care Group (now Fresenius Medical Care), where he grew the company into one of the nation’s largest dialysis providers with 450 outpatient facilities and revenue of almost $1.6 billion.

Prior to Renal Care Group, Brukardt served as executive vice president of Baptist Health Care Affiliates in Nashville, as well as chairman and president of HealthNet, a managed care company with membership of more than 300,000.

Strategic Hospitality
Nashville
Benjamin & Max Goldberg
Partners

Strategic Hospitality’s family of local restaurants and clubs includes Patterson House, Paradise Park Trailer Resort, Ariel and the newly refurbished Merchants. (The brothers bought Merchants, the 22-year-old restaurant in a historic building on Lower Broadway, earlier this year, and spent three months on a complete renovation of both the interior and the menu.)

Eldest brother Benjamin’s first venture, Bar TwentyThree, which he opened in 2003 (at age 23) with friend Austin Ray, replicated the kind of stylish, high-energy nightclubs Goldberg had encountered in college at the University of Miami. Bar TwentyThree helped introduce the “ultra lounge” concept to Nashville and was an early player in the development boom in the Gulch.

After Benjamin also opened City Hall and Paradise Park and created umbrella organization SH, his brother, Max, a former New York City public relations specialist, joined the company as a partner in 2007. After Bar TwentyThree ran its course, the Goldbergs became enamored of the artisan cocktails they sampled in New York, and Patterson House was born.

The team is also committed to an evolving Lower Broadway, evidenced by Paradise Park Trailer Resort, a 24-hour diner and honky-tonk at 411 Broadway, with their Aerial events space atop the same building. SH also does consulting work, for instance helping Gibson Guitar transport Diana’s Sweet Shoppe, a genuine 1920s ice cream parlor, to Lower Broad.

STR Global
Hendersonville
Randy Smith
CEO

Hotel owners and operators, management companies, real estate consultants, appraisers, lenders and even entrepreneurs looking for an investment opportunity need great data. STR is the recognized leader for lodging industry benchmarking, maintaining one of the world’s largest lodging industry databases and publishing an array of valued industry research materials.

The company has cornered the North American market on hotel performance (measures like monthly and daily performance, average daily rate and revenue per available room, or RevPAR). What had been Smith Travel Research became STR Global in 2008 and is now well positioned to corner European and Asian markets.

Smith recently formed a strategic alliance with the Latino Hotel Association, a new trade group based outside of Houston that should serve as a stepping stone into Central and South America. Founded in 1985 with the simple idea of making hotels work better, the company now boasts approximately 100 employees.

Earlier this year, the company continued its expansion with the acquisition of Gerard Murphy & Associates, a firm specializing in market research studies and surveys with particular emphasis on the meetings market (and whose studies have been branded under the well-recognized METROPOLL and EUROPOLL names). Engaging and charismatic founder (and noted bass fisherman) Smith was recently awarded the most prestigious award in the industry with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the America’s Lodging Investment Summit.

The Lampo Group
Brentwood
Dave Ramsey
Founder & CEO

Radio personality Dave Ramsey is a man for the times to say the least. Part businessman and part celebrity, he has built a multi-media empire around the dispensing of financial advice. Helping people pull themselves up by the financial bootstraps has had a reciprocal effect. Ramsey’s Lampo Group now employs several hundred people and continues to grow at a rapid clip.

Armed with a story of personal financial mistakes and bankruptcy, and on what he considers a Providence-driven path, Ramsey ministers to the debt-afflicted via airwave and cable each day. But he also runs a multi-million dollar company that he has built incrementally over the last 20-plus years, developing product offerings and services intended to help others “beat debt and build wealth.”

Ramsey measures the Lampo Group’s success not by company revenues but rather by the number of families changed. Ramsey is both the product the Lampo Group touts and the CEO who oversees the company, which does raise the question — what will happen when he’s not around? Ramsey told sister publication BusinessTN in late 2007 that it remained to be seen if his children (specifically 20-something daughter Rachel) or their spouses would “want to involve themselves in this organization.”

TNA Entertainment
Nashville
Dixie Carter
President

TNA Entertainment, home of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, is a promoter of professional wrestling events. What started as a YouTube sensation now presents pay-per-view and live events, as well as programming on SpikeTV.

TNA boasts Orlando offices in addition to its Cummins Station headquarters, which boasts a state-of-the-art, 15,000-square-foot, high-definition post-production facility — the new home to TNA’s weekly TV show and monthly pay-per-view events, which are aired around the world. (See our related story.)

Uniguest
Nashville
Shawn Thomas
CEO & Co-founder

Alaska-born Shawn Thomas has a colorful background to say the least. A few highlights? How about a stint in a boy band in Hollywood. Or time spent traveling with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus across the United States.

Equally challenging was the first company Thomas started in 1999 installing WebTV in hotel guest rooms, an endeavor stymied by the rise of broadband Internet. Undaunted, Thomas used leftover savings and a loan from a former shareholder to incorporate Uniguest in 2002.

Within two years, the company was servicing 111 hotel properties nationwide and had become the largest supplier and servicing company for free-to-guest public PC computers in the hotel industry. In 2005, Thomas joined forces with Mark Oldham, owner and founder of U.S. Hospitality, which was and continues to be the largest supplier of in-room guest directories to the hotel industry. (Editor’s note: Oldham is an investor in SouthComm, the parent company of Nashville Post magazine.)

Last year, Uniguest fully merged with USHC and acquired a third company — Dynamic Digital Designs. The now 72-employee company also recently expanded its kiosk division with the $5 million purchase of nearly all of the U.S. locations of California-based Showcase Technology — its largest competitor. The move boosted revenues 30 percent.

Growth could come from the fact that over three-quarters of all U.S. hotels currently still manage their public computer systems in-house.

VEXTEC Corp.
Brentwood
Loren Nasser
President & CEO

VEXTEC can accurately predict the life of manufactured products — from a single component to a fleet of thousands — before the first one is ever built. As such, companies in aerospace, automotive, electronics, energy, heavy industry and medical device manufacturing can know the viability of a potential product’s design (say, an engine), the limits of its performance, and what it’ll cost to maintain and warranty before they ever go into production.

Such information can have profound economic and strategic implications for businesses, from product development to aftermarket management. How does it work? Like DNA, in which every cell contains genetic information, every material has a microstructure that determines its behavior. VEXTEC’s founding engineers were able to map material microstructure — the genetic code of materials — and to use it to simulate manufactured product behavior.

Nasser founded VEXTEC with CTO Dr. Robert Tryon and chief product development officer Dr. Animesh Dey in 2000. Their software-based computational process to predict long-term durability fills a gap in the existing capabilities provided by CAD/CAM, FEA, statistical modeling and physical testing.

Video Gaming Technologies
Brentwood
Jon Yarbrough
CEO

The recent opening of new markets like Illinois — where VGT has a significant initiative in place to garner a share in the soon-to-open Illinois Video Lottery Terminals (VLT) market — is sure to drive continued growth at VGT, one of the fastest-growing private companies in the gaming industry.

In addition, the legalization of electronic gaming is currently being considered in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and Texas. VGT products include LCD touch screens, stepper-reel live-draw bingo games and narrow-width gaming cabinets that let facilities place two machines in the space traditionally taken by one.

The company also manufactures Live-Call Bingo, which is the top-earning bingo-based Class II gaming platform for Native American casinos. (The majority of VGT’s customer base is comprised of Native American tribes.) Revenues, as well as employee numbers, continue to climb year after year and are expected to top $200 million and 625 employees this year. (VGT operates using a revenue-sharing business model wherein VGT owns and maintains the gaming machines.)

In business since 1991, VGT’s offices are now spread throughout the United States and Mexico, and are expanding to other countries. Unfortunately, Yarbrough has been stymied in his efforts to move hundreds of manufacturing and engineering jobs to Tennessee due to ongoing hang-ups by state bureaucrats regarding the potential social dangers of manufacturing gaming equipment in a state where such gaming is outlawed.

Vista-Pro Automotive
Nashville
Steve Scharnhorst
President & CEO

Vista-Pro took shape when Chicago private-equity firm Wynnchurch Capital combined Brentwood-based Centrum Equities with many of the assets of Proliance International and set up the combined company’s headquarters in Nashville.

Vista-Pro is a leading North American designer, manufacturer and distributor of aftermarket radiators, heater cores and condensers. It also remanufactures other auto parts, including steering systems and alternators. The company, which runs 11 plants around the country, markets its wares under the Ready-Rad, Ready-Aire and Vista-Pro brands.

The company is the only radiator aftermarket supplier with an all-makes, all-models business strategy, producing radiators in North America for 85 percent of all sales. The headquarters relocation netted 100 new white-collar jobs for Nashville.