Flying 40 climb to new heights - Albuquerque Journal

Flying 40 climb to new heights

Staff at Lentech, Inc., which placed among companies with the top total revenue in this years Flying 40 awards. The company’s gross income in 2020 was nearly 20.5 million. (Courtesy of Lentech, Inc.)

Lentech Inc. has steadily ascended the ranks since joining the annual Flying 40 list of fast-growing technology companies three years ago.

It earned the No. 1 spot this year for growth among companies with over $10 million in revenue, up from second place last year and fourth place in 2019.

In fact, it busted its way above that list to become one of the Flying 40’s top-10 largest companies overall this year, reflecting a huge surge in income over the past five years that raised its revenue from $4 million in 2016 to $20.4 million in 2020.

Its workforce as well expanded by nearly seven-fold, from just 15 in 2016 to 98 last year.

And in 2021, it’s climbing to new heights again, with $25 million in expected revenue this year, and 106 employees as of September, said Lentech founder and CEO Andrew Gallegos.

“It’s been another strong year of good solid growth,” Gallegos told the Journal.

The company, which provides information technology and aerospace engineering services to large federal and state entities, is a homegrown firm that Gallegos, a native New Mexican, launched in 2008. It began as an IT consulting firm and rapidly grew into a comprehensive IT management company that offers enterprise network solutions and cloud-based hosting for entities large and small.

But its entrance into IT-based aerospace engineering work in 2016 marked a turning point, igniting a rapid ascent in Flying 40 rankings, thanks in good part to new space-related contracts with NASA and other civil, defense and commercial customers. It now provides operations and maintenance support for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, and for Kennedy Space Center preparations for NASA’s forthcoming Artemis missions to the moon and beyond.

“We remain headquartered in New Mexico, but we have employees now working in six different states,” Gallegos said.

Like Lentech, most Flying 40 companies report double- and triple-digit revenue growth over the last five years, turning homegrown technology startups into firmly-established companies with commanding positions in their respective industries.

Taken together, this year’s top 10 companies with more than $10 million in revenue grew their combined income by 100% since 2016, from $365 million to $734 million in 2020. Their joint workforce expanded as well by 59%, from 2,289 employees to 3,633.

Rapid growth

Some made the leap from startup to established operator in a very short time.

Verus Research, for example, which launched in 2014, grew its revenue from $8.2 million five years ago to $24.9 million in 2020, expanding its workforce from 30 to 79 employees. That placed the company — which does design, test and evaluation work for high-power microwaves and nuclear engineering — among the Flying 40’s top ten biggest companies this year.

And Verus expects to reach nearly $32 million in revenue for 2021, said Managing Director Hank Andrews. It now employs 107 people.

“We project another 30% growth in revenue this year,” Andrews told the Journal. “We have seven new positions open right now, and we expect to hire another 12 to 15 more in the coming year.”

Other companies have taken longer to build their businesses into top-performing firms, reporting slower but steady growth over many years. Some, however — such as 30-year-old MZA Associates Corp. and 32-year-old Fiore Industries Inc. — have experienced huge growth over the past five years.

MZA, which launched in 1991, expanded from $9.4 million in revenue and 40 employees in 2016 to $32 million and 83 employees in 2020. The company does modeling and analysis on laser systems and imaging for defense agencies. It specializes in beam-control technologies that enable laser weapons to acquire, track and engage targets from long distances at the speed of light.

Speridian Technologies Chairman Girish Panicker pictured in 2015. The company earned more than $66 million in gross revenue last year, earning it a spot among the top total revenue companies as part of this year’s Flying 40 event.

After decades of development, the military is now working to deploy laser weapons in the field, creating major opportunities for MZA to assist in design, test and evaluation, said President Bob Praus.

“In the last few years, all of the services have gotten more serious about developing laser weapons, and three years ago, we were fortunate to win three key contracts with the Navy, the Army and the Air Force,” Praus told the Journal. “We’re now the leading beam-control provider for those emerging systems.”

Fiore, an engineering firm that launched in 1989, also became one of the Flying 40’s top-ten performing companies this year after reaching $21.7 million in revenue in 2020, up from $16.5 million five years ago. In fact, over the past decade, Fiore has quadrupled its income, up from just $5.4 million in 2012. And its workforce expanded six-fold, from 28 to 163 employees.

Founder, president and CEO Bill Miera attributes the growth to a significant change in business strategy. During its first two decades of operation, Fiore concentrated primarily on engineering design and testing for the defense industry. It still does that work, but it greatly broadened the products and services it provides for a wider range of customers.

Last year, for example, Fiore won a $130 million contract — its largest in three decades — to provide protective services at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, where it’s managing campus-wide security and fire protection. And it may soon expand its work with NASA to build robust components for harsh conditions in space.

“We expect to reach $30 million in revenue this year,” Miera told the Journal. “We’ve already hired another 40 people.”

Companies with below $10 million in revenue struggled significantly during the pandemic last year, with six of the top ten companies in that category reporting a decline in revenue between 2018 and 2019.

Brian D’Andrea is president of TechSource Inc. a science and engineering consultant group in Los Alamos, Tuesday June 5, 2018. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal

But all those firms registered either double- or triple-digit growth over the past five years. Taken together, their combined revenue climbed by about 79%, from just over $29 million in 2016 to nearly $52 million in 2020. Their collective workforce expanded from 182 to 322 employees.

Now, with the worst of the pandemic behind them, growth is picking up again in 2021.

Data analytics firm RS21, for example, slid from the No. 1 spot last year among companies with below $10 million to second place this year after its revenue dropped by about $1 million during the pandemic. But it expects to move from below $10 million this year to the Flying 40’s above-$10 million category next year.

Ironically, that reflects new opportunities created by the pandemic, which accelerated efforts to digitize data among customers, particularly in the health care industry, said RS21 President and CEO Charles Rath.

“It’s created a ton of new opportunities for us this year,” Rath told the Journal. “We expect to grow 65% in 2021. And we have similar projections for next year too, because the pipeline for 2022 is already very strong.”

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