Top 50: Foster leads in growth, Ansys finishes second

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George Westinghouse, who changed Pittsburgh in his time, left his mark on industries such as railroads, energy and engineering.

Given his resume, Mr. Westinghouse might have been able to land a job at one of the companies that landed atop the region's top growth list this year -- from railroad products supplier L.B. Foster to engineering software company Ansys and environmental services company Calgon Carbon to gas and pipeline affiliates Atlas Energy Resources and Atlas America.

The annual rankings are based on a formula that factors in percent change in revenue, net income and stock price, as well as return on equity. Unlike the equation calculating the region's overall top performer, this one does not favor the larger players.

Economic turmoil that the nation has been going through may be reflected in the fact that none of this year's top five performers ranked as high last year, although Green Tree-based Foster rode its rail ties into seventh place in 2006.

Foster, which also topped the return on equity list this year, had a nice $151.5 million payoff from an investment in a regional railroad sold to Canadian Pacific Railway. It also showed a 31 percent annual sales gain. All that contributed to an impressive profit increase from $13.5 million in the previous fiscal year to $110.7 million.

Ansys, in second place, has found a receptive market for its simulation software that helps companies develop products, posting what the Southpointe company described as the strongest annual performance in its history and pushing it near the top of several of this year's performance rankings. Last year Ansys ranked 21st for growth.

Calgon Carbon's fourth-place finish on the growth chart was helped by its standing as the best performing regional stock and a strong showing in earnings growth. The Robinson company benefited from significant price increases and growing demand for products and services it sells to remove contaminants and odors from air and water.

Last year's top growth company, oilfield services company Superior Well Services of Indiana, Pa., did well again but landed in 10th place behind other energy-related businesses such as the two affiliated Moon companies -- Atlas Energy Resources, in third place; Atlas America, in fifth place -- and Upper St. Clair mining company Consol Energy in sixth.

This might not have been the best year to look for growth in the banking industry. A number of the area's lenders found themselves toward the bottom of the list as a credit crunch pinched the nation.

Weakness there also affected HFF Inc., a Downtown company that offers the commercial real estate industry services such as debt placement and investment sales. The company, which includes Holliday Fenoglio Fowler and HFF Securities, noted in its fourth-quarter earnings that business was slowed considerably by uncertainty in the markets. It came in second to last.

Cheswick-based Tollgrade Communications trailed the field for the second year in a row. The manufacturer of tools for testing computer networks is in the middle of restructuring its operations to cope with consolidations in its client base.

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Teresa F. Lindeman can be reached at or at 412-263-2018.


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