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The List/19″/dt1st/LK2nd By JOAN OSTERWALDER Staff Reporter As the Business Journal’s list of the fastest-growing private companies in the Valley demonstrates, high-tech is emerging as a dominant force in the Valley’s economy. About one-third of the companies on the list are technology firms. “Definitely, there’s a technology slant,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “A lot of people don’t recognize that we have this base in the Valley. It positions the San Fernando Valley very well for future economic growth.” Market Scan Information Systems, a Westlake Village-based company that provides database information that allows auto dealers to calculate auto lease rates, topped this year’s list with 640 percent growth between 1995 and 1997. Rusty West, Market Scan’s executive vice president, attributes his company’s success to three things: endorsements from industry leaders, a national marketing campaign and a great staff. “Southern California is the richest, most sophisticated auto market in the world,” he said. “You have access to some of the brightest technical minds.” Of course, finding those minds in a tight job market can be a challenge especially for a company growing as fast as Market Scan. The company started with three employees in 1988 and now has 120. “Management-wise we’ve been really lucky,” West said. “Through trial and error we’ve been able to get really good people.” Not far behind Market Scan was Nova Development, a Calabasas-based company that produces creativity and graphics software. Nova’s revenues grew by 594 percent between 1995 and 1997, jumping from $1.7 million to $11.8 million in three years. “Keeping our eyes on the ball” is key to success in the technology business, said Roger Bloxberg, the company’s chief executive. “Commercial computer software has become very competitive.” He believes his 14-year-old firm, with 45 employees, has done well because it has focused on creativity products. Being located in the Valley works to the company’s advantage as well. “We get a nice residual benefit from the training that is provided by the movie production companies for multimedia,” Bloxberg said. Of course, there are some non-technology firms on the list, such as Larwin Co., a homebuilder and land developer, which grew by 124 percent in the three-year period, earning it No. 5 spot. Encino-based Larwin has been in business for more than 50 years, and has benefited from the fact that it has less debt and more land available for development than most of its competitors, according to Chief Executive Michael Keston. “With the larger supply of land, we can get to customers quicker,” he said. Most of Larwin’s revenue has come from Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties. The firm also does business in Ventura County, where voters recently passed a no-growth initiative that requires voter approval for future developments. But Keston is not worried. “Revenues will be substantially reduced because of (the initiative)” he acknowledged. “(But) it won’t have a major effect.” Actually, the firm’s biggest challenge is finding enough open land on which to build, especially in L.A. County. Demand for new housing is very strong and is expected to remain so because of a projected influx of people to the area, but homebuilders are fiercely competing for developable space. “Prospects are good if (Larwin) can find land to build on,” said Kyser. Breath Asure Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of breath freshener products, was last year’s No. 1 company, but fell to No. 10 this year. It grew 97 percent between 1995 and 1997. Another prospering non-technology company that made this year’s list was Temps on Time, a temporary and full-time personnel agency, where revenues grew by 72 percent, rising from $2.9 million to $5 million, in the three-year period. “The San Fernando Valley is an easier neighborhood for (people) to get to know you,” said Kathryn Kidd, the agency’s owner. To qualify for the list, companies had to be willing to release their revenues something that disqualified a number of firms that might otherwise have appeared. They also had to report at least $5 million in revenue last year, and were required to have a local controlling ownership. The list includes companies in Simi Valley and Santa Clarita.

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