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Top 100 2012: Going for gold, breaking records

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Central Pennsylvania's companies set out in 2011 going for gold, and many of these economic athletes shattered the records.

So stand atop the podium, wave to the crowd and take a bow.

Harrisburg-based D&H Distributing Co. Inc. takes the gold medal home again this year with total revenue of $2.84 billion, a 10.67 percent gain over 2010.

"We really pride ourselves on having an industry-leading service, and exceeding our customer expectations," D&H Co-president Dan Schwab said. "Consumer electronics, computer products and video games all make up our markets, but some products are flat or down. That focus on services helps us capture various customer markets. Our co-owners are laser focused, not just sitting back."

This year's Top 100 crushed the competition from last year. For example, half of the companies on the list posted 2011 revenue that grew by more than 10 percent from the previous year. The number last year was barely worth mentioning.

Nearly 69 percent of companies had revenue increases. Three percent saw little or no change, and slightly more than 28 percent had revenue decreases.

But this year, companies rose above. Thirty-one companies posted revenue gains of 20 percent or greater compared with last year. They include companies such as Lancaster County-based Rettew Associates Inc., which grew more than 159 percent.

"We did a lot of research and worked hard to understand the market and where it was going," said Mark Lauriello, Rettew's president.

One of the largest gainers in dollar figures was Cumberland County-based auto dealership Sun Motor Cars Inc. The company posted a revenue gain of $154.2 million, or roughly 124 percent over the previous year. Its total of nearly $279 million landed it in the No. 10 spot, up from No. 17.

The big switches in the top 10 were York County-based convenience store and dairy company Rutter's Holdings Inc. and energy and fueling company Shipley Group, which traded the No. 2 and 3 spots. Shipley, with total revenue of more than $653 million, edged Rutter's by about $13 million.

"In our business, as I look back over the decades, whoever was our chief competitor in one decade was not the chief competitor in the next one," said Scott Hartman, Rutter's president and CEO. "You've got to keep ahead of the next guy."

Lancaster County-based The High Cos. held on to No. 4, but Hanover-based potato chip king Utz Quality Foods Inc. jumped up to No. 5, displacing York-based Kinsley Construction Inc. to the eighth spot. Lancaster County-based energy and convenience store operators Worley & Obetz Inc. landed the No. 6 spot with a nearly 35 percent revenue gain, which was the third-largest gain in the top 10.

Some companies, such as Amelia's Inc. and Yale Electric Supply Co. Inc., retired from the Top 100 as the companies were acquired and no longer locally owned. At least eight others chose not to supply ranking criteria this year.

However, there are new faces in the Olympic swimming pool that is the Top 100. In fact, 14 companies stepped up, many of whom are rookies or returning greats who took a hiatus during the recession.

At No. 23, Lancaster County-based Lawn Equipment Parts Co., better known as LEPCO, was the highest-ranked company not ranked last year. The company had revenue of $103 million, or about 8.4 percent more than the prior year.

"When faced with (difficult) conditions, we try to view them as opportunities. Revenues may be adversely affected, but there are still positive actions we can take internally and with our customers in order to ensure long-term success," said Jeff Clark, LEPCO's president.

Ultimately, that was one of the strongest messages of many company executives in this year's Top 100: The worst is behind us and it's time to buckle down and power through these next turns, like a cyclist or a marathon runner who knows the finish line is a few short miles away.

Like those athletes, many companies ignored the extreme pain, adjusted their pace and sprinted for the finish line.

"We also like to win," said Travis Eby, president of Lancaster County manufacturer M.H. Eby Inc. "We kind of 'ring the bell' and enjoy those moments together."

Editor's note: This story has been modified from a previous version to correct a quote by Dan Schwab.

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