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Tom Donohue: Saluting America’s Most Exceptional Small Businesses

Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy. They represent more than 99 percent of all employers, creating two-thirds of all new jobs and accounting for nearly half of private-sector output. Each year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recognizes America’s most exceptional small businesses. Here are the regional finalists for the 2014 Dream Big Small Business of the Year.

Sanderson Stewart, based in Billings, Mont., plans and designs lasting communities. Since 1969, the firm has provided engineering, landscape design, surveying and construction management services that have shaped the region. In 2002, three longtime employees purchased the firm and expanded its geographic reach and service offerings.

Modernizing Medicine Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., is saving time and improving patients’ medical outcomes through the Electronic Medical Assistant, a cloud-based electronic medical record system. The company recently received a $14 million equity investment and plans to add 50 team members in 2014.

The owner of Cuisine Unlimited Catering began her career in 1980 when a local charitable group asked her to lead catering operations at fundraising events. In 1990, she took the leap and opened her own catering business and deli in Salt Lake City, Utah. Today, the company employs more than 140 workers, posting sales in excess of $4 million.

American Custom Exteriors & Interiors of Rochester, N.Y., began as a one-man siding company in 1986 but quickly expanded to include services such as roofing, window installation and custom cabinetry. It now has 35 employees who receive continuous training to keep them competitive.

The mission at family-owned Quality Float Works Inc. has stayed the same for four generations: to remain the premier float ball and valve assemblies manufacturer in the world. The Schaumburg, Ill.-based company has grown nearly 200 percent over the past decade, in part by aggressively expanding into international markets.

Xylo Technologies Inc. of Rochester, Minn., is an IT consulting firm founded in 2000 that specializes in staff augmentation, applications, systems development and testing for Fortune 500 companies and government agencies. It is adding new clients in the health-care and government sectors and plans to hire 100 more staff by the end of 2015.

Founded in 1940, Renfro Foods is a third-generation small business known not only for Mrs. Renfro’s salsa but also for its exceptional employee practices. The Fort Worth, Texas, business is a long-standing civic leader, donating time and money to local, state and national organizations.

The Small Business of the Year will be unveiled on June 12 at America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the summit at

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

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