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100 Fastest-Growing Inner City Businesses

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The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC)founded by Harvard Business School Professor Michael E. Porter in 1994, defines inner cities as core urban areas with higher unemployment and poverty rates and lower median incomes than their surrounding metropolitan statistical areas. Every year, ICIC identifies, ranks, and spotlights the 100 fastest-growing businesses located in America’s inner cities. In 2016, Companies were ranked by revenue growth over the five-year period between 2011 and 2015.

ICIC relies on a national network of nominating partners, including city offices, economic development organizations, and small business development corporations, to find many of the businesses that appear on this list. Key partners in 2016 were Staples, Chevron, JumpStart, Kaiser Permanente, New York City Department of Small Business Services, and World Business Chicago. This list was audited by the independent accounting firm Rucci, Bardaro, and Falzone, PC.


From a high-tech commercial fishing outlet in Boston to a socially responsible apparel company in Oakland, there’s great variety in the types of businesses thriving in America’s urban centers and creating jobs where they are needed most. Here are this year's 100 fastest-growing inner city companies, as ranked by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC).

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  3. 2015 Revenues ($M)
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Sophisticated Systems

Courtesy of Sophisticated Systems

If you have the chance to speak with Sophisticated Systems (SSI) CEO, Dwight Smith, you’ll quickly find out that he values his people. Like many IT firms, the human capital part of the business is a critical one. Smith’s commitment to his employees is echoed in the fact that employee retention is high; some team members have been with him for almost 20 years. Beyond the SSI staff, a critical piece of the success of SSI—who saw enough significant growth to make the list in 2001 and continues to grow quickly enough to make this year’s list—has been the direction given by the board of directors. These pieces and strong client relationships are a winning combination in Columbus. The inner city has always been the right place for SSI, and the company is currently creating an innovation lab, which will support other entrepreneurs by helping them to “push the big bets.”

Company Information

Five-Year Growth Rate (%) 137%
2015 Revenues ($M) $39.10
HQ Location Columbus, OH
Business Leader(s) Dwight Smith
Title CEO

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