Growing their own way.

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While Mark Duncan refers to customers who come to him for land surveying services as the economic equivalent of "canaries in a coal mine," the comparison holds true for Duncans own firm, Duncan-Parnell, and other members of this year's class of the Mid-Market Fast 40. That's because medium-sized, rapidly growing companies are frequently more sensitive to market slowdowns or accelerations than their larger counterparts.

Fortunately for these companies and everyone else as well, the economy continues its steady return to pre-recession levels. Evidence of this can be seen in the 2014 Mid-Market Fast 40, a regular feature of Business North Carolina, which ranks middle-market companies based on workforce and revenue from 2011 to 2013. Thirty-nine North Carolina companies made the list this year, including firms that have been named before as well as first-time designees. Whether they're a newbie or a veteran to Fast 40, they share a common denominator: A willingness to succeed. So says Erik Horstmann, a partner at Cherry Bekaert, the accounting firm that vetted companies for the list. "There's not one formula for success," Horstmann notes. Regardless of their growth strategy, some issues are universal. One is funding for both growth and operations. Venture-capital firms, especially in the life-sciences space, are fewer and farther between, while banks, as several Fast 40 executives noted, have started giving more credit. As Horstmann put it, "Everybody is looking for a 'good loan to make,' as they call it." Hiring is also an important factor for companies experiencing the transition from small business to mid-market status; employees who thrive in a risk-taking, entrepreneurial culture might need to be coached--or even replaced--as the company becomes more established.

Even as the economy has improved, certain impediments to growth haven't changed. Excessive regulation is something many Fast 40 designees cited as a continuing problem. Greg Marshall of Omega Construction noted that it took six months to go through the permitting process for a new charter school, while the building itself was completed in 144 days. The rising cost of health insurance, a perennial complaint, was of particular concern for this year's Fast 40, especially in light of current and future provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

We invite you to learn more about the 2014 Fast 40 and the challenges and opportunities they're experiencing.

NORTH CAROLINA Mid-Market Fast 40...

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