by 26% in 2005.

Robert L. Johnson, founder and CEO of RLJ Development L.L.C. (No. 25 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $168.1 million in sales), is the undisputed champion of acquisition. Through several strategic deals, RLJ has seen revenues increase 82.3% in just one year. And with the purchase of 100 hotels from White Lodging Services Corp. for $1.7 billion, the company will more than double the number of black-owned hotels in the United States.

RS Information Systems Inc. (No. 13 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $360 million in sales), headed by President and CEO Rodney P. Hunt, has been no less impressive. The company’s joint venture, Energy Enterprises Solutions L.L.C., received a $1 billion contract from the Department of Energy. The seven-year deal is one of the largest federal contracts ever awarded to a small, black-owned business. Under the contract, EES will perform services in more than 12 different areas, including cybersecurity network operations, application development, capital planning, and strategic planning. This ensures that RSIS retains its title as one of the nation’s largest black-owned companies, but it may also propel 1 Source Consulting, the black-owned firm that partnered with RSIS to form EES, to become a BE 100S firm in its own right.

It wasn’t a good year for the domestic auto industry. Most dealers who managed to grow their business sold imports or luxury vehicles as foreign models continued to dominate sales. This trend was a blessing for Anthony L. Merritt, owner of Superstition Springs Auto Group (No. 12 on the BE AUTO DEALER 100 list with $151.4 million in sales).

True to the trend of his fellow champs, Merritt expanded his business. In May 2005, he began a $15.5 million renovation of his Toyota Dealership. Despite the presence of backhoes and construction crews, Toyota sales rose 5%. The garage’s first floor has 35 new service bays, seven detail bays, a parts boutique, car wash, and two showrooms. Merritt is looking forward to new Camry models from Toyota, his top-selling manufacturer. “That should be a major, major increase for me,” he says.

The trend toward foreign cars has impacted more than just auto dealers. John A. James, chairman and CEO of James Group International (No. 52 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $78.3 million in sales), boasts a 35% increase in revenues on the strength of foreign car sales. The supply chain management company handles consolidation and deconsolidation, warehousing, and distribution of materials primarily to the auto industry. According to James, there are more than 17 million vehicles made and sold in North America and close to 40 million across the globe. “My increase in sales has been primarily with non-U.S. automotive companies,” he says. “Right now, a lot of my growth is occurring because I’m dealing with first-tier suppliers, the large suppliers to these auto companies.”

Being able to press the advantage and strike at the right time is the mark of a great pugilist. In business, it’s called knowing your market. R. Donahue Peebles, president