Thriving In Unpredictable Times

Despite economic threats, the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100have found inventive ways to boost revenues and market share

161 Wendy’s outlets, in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Florida, and 25 Chili’s restaurants.

Talk of a real estate bubble was abundant over the past year, but R. Donahue Peebles, CEO and chairman of The Peebles Corp. (No. 13 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $403.4 million in sales), says it’s due to overreaction. The company has expanded to new projects in Florida and Nevada and increased its real estate investments with commitments to new projects in excess of $2.5 billion. He says there’s a lot of money to be made provided you know where, what, and when to develop: “Now is a great time to buy your home because prices are down. The small investor should be buying when fewer people are buying and selling when fewer people are selling, not the opposite.” Looking ahead, Peebles has his eye on properties in major markets such as Chicago and New York City.

In addition to developing new properties, Peebles decided to diversify his portfolio by acquiring 50% of the licensing rights of the Negro Baseball League Players Association’s authentic athletic apparel. “It was an opportunity brought to me by someone who actually read about me in BLACK ENTERPRISE and read about our company there,” he recalls. “It was an interesting idea. And I like the idea of diversifying and trying something different.”

Thor Construction also benefited fr
om commercial construction activity in booming markets. Among its projects: a $20 million monorail on the Las Vegas Strip connecting the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino to the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. The company recently finished building its first Target store for the retail giant and has another underway. Thor was also awarded a 20% stake in a $200 million project on a football stadium for the University of Minnesota. “Our numbers for this year are nothing compared to what we’re going to see next year,” boasts CEO Richard Copeland.

B.E. 100s Flashback
In June 1973, BE revealed the first-ever ranking of black businesses–the Top 100. The original list, which included industrial, service, and professional businesses largely targeted at African American consumers, had collective sales of $473.4 million and employed a total of 9,267 workers. The No. 1 company: Berry Gordy’s Motown Industries, which produced sales of $40 million. By 1988, the expansion of black auto dealerships as well as professionally trained deal makers heralded the BE 100S–the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 and the BE AUTO DEALER 100. Today, the nation’s largest black industrial/service firms boast total revenues of $18.1 billion, and two companies–St. Louis-based World Wide Technology and Houston-based CAMAC International–have surpassed the billion-dollar sales mark.

Top [10] Growth Leaders

Company Location 2006 Sales* 2005 Sales* % Increase
RLJ Development L.L.C. Bethesda, MD 460.020 168.100 173.66%
Thor Construction Minneapolis, MN 84.000 33.790 148.59%
On-Target Supplies & Logistics Dallas, TX 58.000 37.000 56.76%
Facility Interiors Inc. Dallas, TX 57.000
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