"We're actually going through a pretty hard time in our industry now because it's taking so much money to stay in business," he says. Fuel price increases affect companies that supply fuel just like they affect everyone else. According to Mr. Vegas, rising energy costs are the key challenge facing the wholesale industry.
Mr. Vegas, who purchased the company from his father in 1995, said customers are working hard to conserve fuel and any growth will require the company to diversify by moving into the ethanol and biodiesel markets. Delta Fuel made its first big move in that direction by purchasing a shuttered Louisiana plant that will be used to make biodiesel. The 60-acre plant has 6.7 million gallons of storage space and will produce between 15 million and 25 million gallons of biodiesel its first year.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did not affect the company's 32 percent increase in gross sales in 2005, as neither hurricane directly impacted northeast Louisiana. But following Katrina, fuel supplies were restricted to the point that the company had a hard time supplying their customers.
In terms of dollar increases, The Related Group of Florida recorded the highest increase in revenues from 2001 to 2005. The Miami real estate development company, ranked No. 1 on the Hispanic Business 500 and No. 33 on the Hispanic Business 100 Fastest-Growing list with a five-year growth rate of nearly 494 percent, increased sales by $2.7 billion, climbing from $547 million in 2001 to $3.3 billion in 2005.
CG Management, No. 45 on the list with a five-year growth rate of 337 percent, recorded the largest workforce growth. The Dallas-area restaurant management and real estate development company reported an increase in employment from 800 in 2001 to 4,000 in 2005.
Four companies made the top 10 in both revenue and number of employee growth. Brightstar Corp., the Miami distributor of value-added services for the wireless industry came in as No. 2 on the Hispanic Business 500, and ranked No. 56 on this year's fastest-growing list. Meanwhile, Long Beach, California-based Molina Healthcare, Inc., a health care services company and No. 3 on the Hispanic Business 500, ranked No. 69; followed by Group O, Inc., a Milan, Illinois packaging and printing services company coming in at No. 62; and Fred Loya Insurance, an El Paso, Texas auto insurance company, ranked No. 32.
Many companies that made the Hispanic Business 100 Fastest- Growing list are also on the Hispanic Business 500 list. Five of those 500 are based in Alabama, with four of the five on the 100 list located in the Huntsville area. Intuitive Research & Technology Corp. (No. 21), Analytical Services, Inc., (No. 67), SEI Group, Inc., (No. 77), and Advanced Federal Services Corp. (No. 92) are high-tech companies in what one Huntsville resident described as the high-tech Mecca of the South.
Holly McClain, communications director of the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County, said approximately half of the Huntsville-area economy is related to the high-tech industry, which is led by the U.S.Army's Redstone Arsenal.
Redstone Arsenal is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S.Army Aviation and Missile Command, the Space and Missile Defense Command, and major components of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Missile Defense Agency.
"We're very much a high-tech city as far as the makeup of our workforce and our employers,"Ms.McClain says. "Huntsville has the highest per-capita number of engineers and scientists in the nation."
The Huntsville area gained 4,700 jobs in the most recent round of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) procedure, Ms.McClain explains, following gains in the 1995 round.
"We have a tremendous amount of synergy between the federal agencies that are located out at Redstone Arsenal," Ms.McClain says.
Huntsville is also home to the 3,842-acre Cummings Research Park, the second largest research park in the nation and the fourth largest science park in the world. It is home to 220 companies and employs 24,500 people.
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