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    High tech, high life

    Top 10 Companies

    1. Keane Inc.

    2. EMC Corp.

    3. TJX Cos.

    4. Cambridge Technology Partners Inc.

    5. Biogen Inc.

    6. DeWolfe Cos.

    7. DM Management Co.

    8. Concord Communications Inc.

    9. Summit Technology Inc.

    10. State Street Corp.

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    The 1999 Globe 100

    By Kimberly Blanton, Globe Staff, 05/17/99

    Each story of how a Massachusetts company reached the pinnacle of success provides a window on the turn-of-the-millennium economy.

    The best-performing among The Boston Globe 100 companies in 1998 was Keane Inc., which has benefited - literally - from the calendar's turn to the year 2000. Last year, Keane's revenues increased by more than 50 percent amid high demand for one of its main services: preventing impending crises from Y2K glitches in customers' computer systems.

    But lasting evidence of a high-tech boom is scattered throughout the ranks of The Globe 100 companies.

    EMC Corp. has achieved the status of being an old Globe 100 standby, having established itself as a workhorse among the country's wildly successful computer giants.

    Concord Communications Inc., on the other hand, has burst into prominence after finding a niche in computer networking just as Internet usage has taken off.

    To stay on top of this quick- change world, companies must display persistence, adaptability
    And Alpha Industries, a maker of semiconductors for cellular telephones, has benefited from the popularity of that indulgence, one that has come to symbolize the prosperous '90s.

    The high-tech boom driving the nation's - and the state's - long-running expansion has spilled over into many other industries, including real estate, financial services, and retailing.

    DM Management Co., which owns the J. Jill catalog that sells ''soft career'' clothing to middle-aged women, and TJX Cos., owner of the off-price T.J. Maxx and Marshalls chains, have mastered the art of retailing at a time when consumers are spending money like never before.

    Gatsby-like consumer confidence catapulted DeWolfe Cos., the region's only publicly traded real estate company, to number six in The 1998 Globe 100.

    ''Massachusetts has the highest concentration of high-tech employment of any state in the country, and that specialization is clearly working in our favor,'' said Sara Johnson, director of economic research for Standard & Poor's DRI in Lexington.

    Marshall Carter led State Street Corp. to the number 10 position in the Globe 100 survey. (Globe File Photo)
    ''The rapid appreciation in the stock market and newly created wealth,'' she added, ''has driven demand for housing and consumer products at companies like DeWolfe and TJX and catalog companies and the financial services companies.''

    The firms that make the annual Globe 100 are ranked from the pool of all Massachusetts-based public companies that trade on the Nasdaq, New York, or American stock exchanges. The ranking is based on a weighted composite index that factors in revenue, one-year changes in both revenue and profit margin, and one-year average return on stock equity. Nordby International Inc., a data services company in Boulder, Colo., prepared the study for the Globe.

    There are always the perennials, companies that keep popping up at or near the top of the list year after year.

    State Street Corp., which provides a bread-and-butter service as record-keeper for the multitrillion-dollar investment industry, is one, showing up at number 10 for 1998. Its fortunes have risen with each 1,000-point leap in the stock market.

    But another perennial, Gillette Co. - one of the state's biggest companies with 5,500 employees - slid far down the list to number 48. A global economic slump undercut demand for Gillette's razor blades and consumer products in many of its far-flung export markets.

    A lot can happen in a year. Last year Wyman-Gordon Co. garnered the top spot, featured as the Globe's Company of the Year. Now it is the object of a takeover bid from Precision Castparts Corp. for $825 million. Wyman-Gordon has suffered from a decline in demand by aerospace customers for its metal alloys used in making aircraft and parts; the company fell to number 45 in The Globe 100 for 1998.

    Although the companies on The Globe 100 can change dramatically each year, there are certain qualities among those that surge to the top or park there for consecutive years.


    A common trait of many of these companies is the ability to persist in an unforgiving business world.

    No industry is more unforgiving than biotechnology. At a time when many biotech companies are out of favor with investors and losing money, Biogen is thriving after two full years of selling its multiple sclerosis treatment, Avonex, and earning royalties on revenues from licensing deals with pharmaceutical giants. Avonex, which has been successful with the most common type of MS, led to sales of nearly $400 million last year, the company said.

    Biotech giant Genzyme Corp., which manufactures large quantities of its high-priced treatment for the rare Gaucher's disease, has also become a stable company and has found its way into The Globe 100 ranking for 1998, at number 37.

    EMC plodded along last year in its very unsexy - but very rewarding - mission as the largest seller of high-powered computer storage systems. EMC, which rose from fifth place to number two, is considered by analysts to be in a league with Dell Computer Corp. and Cisco Systems. If use of the Internet grows at as rapid a pace as expected, in coming years demand for EMC's products is sure to rise, said spokesman Mark Fredrickson.

    ''Every time you hit the send button on your computer, move the icon, withdraw money from an ATM, or make a long-distance phone call,'' said Fredrickson, ''you're creating a need for storage.''

    High-tech turmoil

    The world of computer hardware and software is one in which companies rise or fall as technological fads come and go. Some companies that ranked high last year have either slid far down the rankings or dropped off completely.

    Parametric Technology Corp., one of the largest software companies in the area, fell from third place last year to number 42 this year after glitches were exposed in its manufacturing-design software and competitors moved eagerly into its territory.

    Technological change also creates winners.

    Summit Technology Inc. rebounded last year, selling more of its lasers used in surgery to reshape the corneas of patients with poor vision. The success of medical device companies such as Summit is the fruit of ''Boston's medical research and strong funding from the National Institutes of Health over the years,'' DRI's Johnson said.

    Adapting to change

    Companies that adapt do well.

    Concord Communications, after struggling as a private company for a decade, was on a roll last year. Its old market, making manufacturing hardware and software, fizzled, but Concord was able to switch gears and has begun to thrive. Its network analysis software has allowed the company to forge alliances with Internet providers, systems companies such as Cisco Systems, and telecommunications outfits. Concord launched its initial public offering in 1997, and ranked eighth for 1998, the first year in which it was eligible.

    Fleet Financial Group Inc. always manages to stay one step ahead in a rapidly changing financial world. The company acquired Shawmut National Corp. four years ago and moved its headquarters from Providence to Boston.

    Earlier this year, Fleet announced a merger with BankBoston Corp., which probably is making its last appearance as an independent company on the 1998 Globe 100.

    This story ran on page D1 of the Boston Globe on 05/18/99.
    © Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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