- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2001

The region's technology giants are scaling back their business plans and laying off workers, but many smaller firms are thriving.

Companies like G1440, a Columbia, Md., business that helps mid-sized businesses go on line, and Streampipe.com, an Alexandria-based Internet broadcaster, are growing.

Ryan Houck, director of marketing for G1440, will not disclose its annual revenue, but says its fourth-quarter revenue grew 76 percent from third-quarter figures. He also says the company has 140 workers, and plans to add more this year.

Mr. Houck says G1440 is succeeding because it isn't "trying to be all things to all people."

The firm only takes on mid-sized real estate companies, retailers, financial companies and manufacturers as clients.

"We have aspirations to be a larger company, but we do not want to change our business model," he says.

Two other small companies, Streampipe.com in Alexandria and Blackboard.com in the District, are planning to expand their offices at a time when larger tech companies are downsizing and shedding office space.

Streampipe.com recently leased an additional 23,000 square feet in its building. Blackboard is also planning an expansion, according to commercial real estate brokers.

Stephen S. Fuller, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who studies the D.C. area's economy, says small tech businesses in industries like government contracting are doing well.

"It's a function of who your clients are… . If you're in an industry doing well, you're probably doing well," Mr. Fuller says.

Larger firms, such as Vienna software company MicroStrategy Inc., which recently laid off 230 workers, or 10 percent of its work force, have had to downsize because their products and services are geared toward other businesses, Mr. Fuller says.

Since consumer spending is dipping, those firms are suffering, he says.

Other big companies laying off workers include Proxicom Inc., a Reston firm that competes with G1440. Proxicom recently handed out 50 pink slips, or roughly 5 percent of its work force.

The biotechnology industry is also supporting successful niche firms, according to Andrea DeSanti, director of industry networks for the Technology Council of Maryland, a Rockville-based group that advocates for local tech firms.

A big chunk of the biotech industry depends on government research contracts and not traditional market forces, Ms. DeSanti says.

Mr. Fuller says the mounting layoffs are not necessarily bad news. Some workers are finding better-paying jobs at growing companies that are starving for tech-savvy talent, he says.

"We may be losing companies, but we may be gaining a stronger work force for the future," Mr. Fuller says.


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