Growth at Azavea, Stroll lands them on Inner City 100 list

It’s great to see Azavea Inc. and Stroll L.L.C., both of Philadelphia, make the Inner City 100 list again.

That’s an annual ranking by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City of the fastest-growing companies in urban cores where the unemployment and poverty rates are higher than the surrounding region.

Stroll, an online direct-response retailer of personal-development audio books with offices at 1600 John F. Kennedy Blvd., ranked No. 25. Azavea, a Web software developer at 340 N. 12th St., placed No. 48. Both appeared on the 2010 list; Azavea made the cut in 2009, too, when it was known as Avencia.

Companies were ranked by revenue growth between 2005 and 2009. Stroll, which had 2009 revenue of $16.7 million, had revenue growth of 52 percent over that four-year period. With 2009 revenue of $2.2 million, Azavea produced revenue growth of 32 percent.

But that’s it for a Philadelphia-area presence, which I find perplexing. After all, Chicago had two firms ranked in the top 10 and seven on the list overall. San Francisco notched six companies, Detroit five, and Washington, four.

Even Pittsburgh, our former Steel City to the west, can claim three Inner City 100 companies: Network Deposition Services (No. 16), Net Health Systems (No. 41), and GSP Consulting (No. 63).

Boston-based ICIC, a nonprofit organization, said it received more than 2,000 nominations for the 2011 edition - the most in the 13 years it’s been showcasing entrepreneurship in “distressed urban areas.”

And there are company names on the Inner City 100 that many of us have heard before, including Pandora Internet Radio, of Oakland, Calif. (No. 2), TerraCycle, of Trenton (No. 4), and Angie’s List, of Indianapolis (No. 26).

As for No. 1, it’s CSI, with a 158 percent compound annual revenue-growth rate between 2005 and 2009. It may sound like a CBS crime drama, but it’s really an Oklahoma City, Okla., information-technology consulting business.

On the ballot

Pennsylvania may be holding primary elections Tuesday, but forgive me if my interest is held by elections of a different sort at 25 area companies this week. In particular, there are three annual shareholder meetings worth watching, and for very different reasons.

First, Urban Outfitters Inc., making good use of its funky and increasingly sprawling presence at the Navy Yard, will have its annual meeting there Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. The retailer has raised the ire of some socially responsible investors with its all-male board.

Calvert Investment Management Inc. and Connecticut’s public pension fund have sponsored a resolution that urges the board of directors to publicly commit to seeking women and minority candidates during every director search.

During a conference call, Calvert senior sustainability analyst Aditi Vora Mohapatra said that five of Urban Outfitters’ direct peers have at least one woman and/or minority-group member on their boards. She identified those peers as Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Gap Inc., Limited Brands Inc., Nordstrom Inc., and Ross Stores Inc.

Urban Outfitters’ seven-member board opposes the resolution and defended its existing nominating process in its proxy statement, saying that it works “to identify the best possible nominees for director, regardless of the nominee’s gender, racial background, religion or ethnicity.”

Second, shareholders of Pulse Electronics Corp. will gather in San Diego on Wednesday at 1 p.m. to face a choice over competing board slates. Bel Fuse Inc., a competitor based in Jersey City, had made a hostile bid for the Philadelphia-area electronic-components-maker Feb. 28. Pulse rebuffed the $6-per-share bid, and Bel Fuse launched a proxy fight seeking to have its two director nominees elected by Pulse shareholders.

Regardless of the outcome at the meeting, Pulse will become another Philadelphia company that has gotten away. On Feb. 10, the company formerly known as Technitrol Inc. announced it would be moving its corporate headquarters later this year to San Diego, closing its 8,000-square-foot offices in Trevose.

Third, Aetna Inc., the Hartford, Conn.-based health insurer, will hold its annual meeting at Le Meridien Philadelphia hotel at 1421 Arch St. Friday at 9:30 a.m. Like so many other national companies, Aetna moves its meeting around. It was in Atlanta last year.

Aetna faces a proposal sponsored by an institutional investor seeking to require that the chairman of the board be an independent director who has not served as an Aetna executive. The current chairman is Mark T. Bertolini, also Aetna’s chief executive officer.

Shareholders voted on the same proposal last year, and while Aetna prevailed, the vote was close: 161.17 million votes in favor of an independent chairman to 191.38 million votes against.