FIVE LOCAL COMPANIES ARE ONES TO WATCH

Companies-to-watch-PictureFive local companies proved they are still growing, both in profits and jobs, and were named to a list of Indiana Companies to Watch for 2011.

The award went to 43 companies across the state, and includes two in Crown Point, two in Valparaiso and one in East Chicago. The award recognizes private businesses with six to 150 employees and between $750,000 to $100 million in annual revenue, according to a press release.

“It’s an honor to be chosen because in these slow economic times, we’re able to see some growth, and we’ve even hired additional people to work with us,” Edward Garza, president of VF Garza El Popular, said.

El Popular, which is headquartered 910 E. Chicago Ave., East Chicago, and has a location in Valparaiso, makes a chorizo sausage sold across the country, including at Soldier Field in Chicago, Garza said. The family-owned business has seen recent growth because of an increase in demand for Mexican food, Garza said, along with certification that it is inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which allows the company to sell across the state lines.

Along with the company’s growth, it’s been able to buck the national trend of low hiring rates. Garza said the company has already hired new employees and expects to hire more by the end of the year.

The same is true for DonLevy Laboratories, a food-testing company at 11165 Delaware Parkway, Crown Point, said Kristy Hudi, executive administrative assistant. The company has grown from about 25 to 30 employees five years ago to 100 today, Hudi said.

“Actually we’re very understaffed right now,” Hudi said.

The company applied for the award last year, but it wasn’t until its second application this year that it was rewarded for its growth. Hudi said she doesn’t know if the award will translate to more success but said it’s good to get recognition.

The company tests food samples from companies across the country to make sure that food is safe for consumption before its distributed.

One of the other local companies, Retro-Tech Systems, is new to the area after moving to 853 Eastport Centre Drive, Valparaiso, about a year ago.

“It’s very exciting for us,” Jeff Jackson, director of marketing for Retro-Tech, said. “We’re a fast growing, very stable company. It’s exciting to really be acknowledged by the state.”

Retro-Tech announced when it moved to Valparaiso that it intended to hire 18 new employees. The company has already hired some new people, Jackson said, including himself. What the final number ends up at is unknown, though.

Jackson said the company likes being based in Valparaiso because of Valparaiso University and Ivy Tech Community College, which provide resources such as possible interns.

Retro-Tech works with Federal, State and local government facilities to provide energy efficient lighting solutions to reduce their energy consumption.

The two other local companies also recognized by the award are In Touch Pharmaceuticals, 3000 Murvihill Road, Valparaiso, and Diversified Marketing Strategies, 1330 Arrowhead Court, Crown Point. Neither company could be reached for comment.

The Indiana Companies to Watch awards are given out by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., Purdue University and the Edward Lowe Foundation.

BY Teresa Auch Schultz tauch@post-trib.com July 19, 2011