100 fastest growing inner city businesses

11. Watermark
11. Watermark
2009 Revenues: $19.5 million
5-year Annual Growth Rate: 72%

John Haley
Location: Lowell, MA
Year Founded: 2001

About the business:
Fed up of with having their ideas rejected by their old bosses, John Haley and Joseph Spangenberger invested around $1,000, set up a small business team, and created Watermark, an environmental and civil engineering firm. The company also provides construction management and operation and maintenance services to government, municipal and private sector clients throughout New England.

Prior to winning their first business contract, though, they were stuck in a bit of a "Catch-22." To land the contract, they had to show that they had financial backing, but the banks wanted to see that the team had a done-deal contract before they offered initial financing. While in limbo, Haley and Spangenberger worked as consultants to keep a steady income, but they eventually landed the contract. Watermark has since won numerous government contracts.

--By Eno Alfred

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) defines inner cities as core urban areas with higher unemployment and poverty rates and lower median incomes than their surrounding metropolitan statistical areas. For the 2011 list, ICIC received more than 2,000 solicited nominations using its database of small businesses and through the support of its nominating partners, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Staples, and the Small Business Administration. Companies were ranked by compound annual growth rate (CAGR) based on their revenue over the five-year period between 2005 and 2009 (the last year for which complete data was available).
Last updated May 18 2011: 5:14 PM ET
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