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Smaller tech companies hitting their stride

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Contrast Optical Design and Engineering is hitting the fast track with innovative products and services for cameras and imaging systems.

The company, which launched in 2005, took first place on this year’s Flying 40 list of fast-growing companies with below $10 million in revenue after expanding its sales 792 percent since 2011, from $258,000 to $2.31 million last year.

The company does modeling and analysis of imaging systems to improve capabilities, and offer new products and services to military, industrial, research and commercial customers. Its engineers have created patented technology for high-dynamic range (HDR) video camera systems that help enhance images to look more like that seen by the naked eye, said company President Nora Tocci, who runs the firm with husband Michael Tocci.

“Our core intellectual property helps improve HDR system ability,” Tocci said. “HDR systems capture more light with cameras to produce higher quality photos that make images look more like you expect them to. That benefits customers by giving them more information.”

The company’s innovative engineering leads to new products and solutions for customers. That’s opening more markets, while creating a sustainable revenue flow, Tocci said.

“We’ve grown with some key contracts that have resulted in new products that we now provide on a regular basis to confidential customers,” she said. “We also maintain those systems and provide ongoing support for them. That part of the company is growing very fast.”

Contrast moved in 2014 from a small office in Cedar Crest, where it started, to a 4,000-square-foot space in Uptown Albuquerque to provide more space and closer proximity to local customers. The company employs five people, up from two in 2011, and expects to hire two or three more by year-end.

Most of the other 15 companies on this year’s below-$10 million list reported double- and triple-digit expansion over the past five years. Overall, those companies grew their combined revenue by 79 percent, from $34.6 million in 2011 to $61.9 million in 2015. Their workforce expanded from 245 employees to 440.

Ideum, a Corrales-based company that makes multi-touch computer tables and screens for interactive displays, took second place this year in percentage growth in revenue. Sales jumped 253 percent, from $1.9 million in 2011 to $6.7 million last year.

But the company had the highest growth in dollars among below-$10 million firms. Its annual revenue grew by $4.8 million since 2011 and it nearly doubled its workforce, from 21 to 41 people.

Mot ThiVo sews a breathing tube holder at Marpac, one of this year's Flying 40 honorees. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Mot ThiVo sews a breathing tube holder at Marpac, one of this year’s Flying 40 honorees. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

In part, Ideum, which launched in 1999, is reaping the benefits of entering the touch-screen market with innovative products before many competitors did. Now, with touch-screen technology penetrating so many industries, Ideum already enjoys a major foothold in markets and a long, successful track record for quality that helps win customers.

“The market is now ready for this technology and we have a history in this field,” said CEO Jim Spadaccini. “That’s important, because people get nervous with emerging technology, which can be expensive. They look for firms with a track record and experience.”

Blue Skies Consulting Inc., which took third place on the below-$10 million list, is another rising star with a long track record. The company, which launched in 1999, does aerial imaging for state and federal agencies with three planes and high-tech cameras that it operates at the Belen Alexander Airport.

Company revenue rose by 122 percent, from $517,000 in 2011 to $1.15 million in 2015.

Likewise, aerospace company Great River Technology and engineering firm Fiore reported huge jumps in revenue since 2011 after building their businesses over two to three decades. Great River’s revenue climbed from $1.9 million in 2011 to $4.2 million in 2015, earning it fourth place on this year’s list. Fiore increased sales from $4.9 million to $9.2 million.

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