‘Inner City 100’ honors list of fastest-growing urban companies

Ten Massachusetts firms were named to the list

Sandra Larson | 6/5/2013, 2:01 p.m.

Minority and female ownership is higher among the Inner City 100 than the national norms. Of this year’s winners, 35 percent are minority-owned, while nationally, 21 percent of all companies are headed by minorities, according to ICIC. And woman-owned firms make up 28 percent of the winners, while only 10 percent of companies with over $1 million in annual revenues are woman-owned nationally.

Nina Brown and Clarissa Rowe founded their Boston landscape architecture and urban design firm in 1981 to create a better workplace for women who wanted to have both children and rewarding careers.

“It’s hard to believe, but 30 years ago people would tell us you couldn’t have any responsibilities on the job if you have children; you had to do one or the other,” said Brown.

Their company, Brown, Richardson + Rowe Inc., has grown to a mostly female staff of 12. They worked from a church basement and then on Congress Street before moving to Post Office Square in downtown Boston. A city location was important, Brown said, to take advantage of public transit and to be taken seriously as designers of urban parks. Their work includes Boston projects such as the East Boston Greenway, Constitution Beach and Spectacle Island, as well as park projects in the state’s midsize “gateway cities” such as Lowell and Holyoke.

To qualify for the Inner City 100, firms must have at least 10 full-time employees and a five-year operating history that includes at least $200,000 in revenues in the first year of consideration and fifth-year sales of at least $1 million. More than half of their operations must be located in an urban area that is “economically distressed,” meaning it has 50 percent higher unemployment, 50 percent higher poverty level, and 50 percent lower median income than its broader metropolitan area.

This year’s winners came from 48 cities in 27 states. Boston, with seven companies on the list, was second only to Chicago; Massachusetts ranked fourth, behind California, Illinois and Texas.

Other Massachusetts companies on the 2013 Inner City 100 list are Fennick McCredie Architecture of Boston; travel shipping company Luggage Forward of Boston; corporate asset recovery company The Locator Services Group of Boston; CrunchTime! Information Systems of Boston, which provides enterprise reporting tools for restaurants; minority-owned construction and environmental remediation company RM Technologies of Lawrence; TANTARA of Worcester, a construction and environmental remediation company; and environmental and civil engineering firm Watermark of Lowell.

The winning CEOs who spoke with the Banner offered simple words of advice for business success: Know your product. Get an accountant if you don’t have a business background. Find a community bank who knows you as people and will understand when you have cash flow problems. Try for every award you can win. Keep networking. Be honest about what you can do, and do it well.

“It’s not magic at all,” said Nunes. “What’s different about us is we finish our jobs. That’s basic quality. People don’t mind paying more for quality. It takes a lot of time for a business to recover from an unhappy client.”

And, of course, it helps to enjoy what you do.

Pinck recalls the satisfaction of helping the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation develop the last stages of the Brewery complex. “I was always interested in repurposing older buildings,” she said. “And to see something like that add so much life to an area — it feels good.”