From Virginia Business By

Four Hampton Roads companies made it into the elite top 1,000 of this year’s Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, based on revenue growth during the past three years.

Daniel Markes is CEO of Markesman Group, a Newport News federal contracting business that was the top-ranked Hampton Roads business on this year’s Inc. 5000 list. Photo by Mark Rhodes

Although many industries were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the region’s top-ranked Inc. 5000 businesses are in government contracting and real estate — sectors that managed to maintain and, in some cases, exceed previous years’ growth. 

Newport News-based Markesman Group, a federal contractor, ranked first in the region and 11th in the state at No. 291. It was founded in 2014 by U.S. Air Force veteran Daniel Markes and his childhood friend Alex Wang, who serve, respectively, as the company’s CEO and chief operating officer. Markesman Group provides IT services for government and military clients and is certified through the state’s Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program, which trains and assists companies on hiring military veterans.

Markes says it’s been a challenging 12 months as the United States began its drawdown in Afghanistan. His company, which earns about $15 million a year, saw its Afghanistan work worth $4 million to $5 million decline by roughly 75%. It also led to the layoffs of 20 intelligence analysts who supported the company’s operations in Afghanistan. However, Markesman shifted resources to focus on other services and was later able to hire 40 cyber-engineers.

“[We] increased lost revenue by more than double,” Markes says. “We replaced that revenue retraction with $10 million in revenues within the intelligence community by providing language-enabled cyberanalysis.” The company also opened its new offices in Newport News in February 2020 just before the pandemic shutdown, and the space remains essential for classified projects, Markes notes.

In all, Markesman Group grew by 1,583% over the past three years, and it is currently in the process of launching two joint ventures and increasing its ratio of primary contracts to subcontracts. In recent years, Markesman has served as a subcontractor for federal contracts awarded to Leidos Inc., General Dynamics Information Technology Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Other Hampton Roads government contractors on this year’s Inc. 5000 list include Virginia Beach-based Kern Technology Group LLC at No. 336, up from its 2020 ranking at No. 407, and Stratas Corp. at No. 535. Like Markesman, both companies work on federal contracts — Kern’s specialty is the U.S. Navy, and Virginia Beach-headquartered Stratas subsidiary StratasCorp Technologies has won places on several defense contracts, specializing in electronic warfare, logistics support, shipyard IT services and more. Kern reported 1,399% revenue growth over the last three years, while Stratas saw 904% revenue growth.

Ranked No. 793 on this year’s Inc. 5000, Priority Title & Escrow has appeared on the list four years in a row, but this is the first year it has broken into the list’s top 1,000 companies. Founded in 2005, the Virginia Beach-based real estate company provides settlement services. It saw 617% revenue growth over the past three years.

There was a lot of stress for the company early in the pandemic, notes founder and CEO Joseph LaMontagne. “In April [2020], we saw a lot of deals in our pipeline fall off because people didn’t know what would happen,” he says. “They said, ‘I can’t refinance or buy a house because I’m jobless.’”

However, that period passed quickly as interest rates fell rapidly, and Priority “was inundated with a massive amount of business from the end of April on,” LaMontagne says.

Over the past two years, Priority doubled its staff to 400, which allowed the company to meet demand, he says. And adding online notarization services for closings allowed customers to be served remotely during the pandemic. In 2021, the company outranked 11 other title companies nationwide on the Inc. 5000.