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Originally published June 12, 2010 at 10:06 PM | Page modified June 12, 2010 at 10:11 PM

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Letter from the editor

The first decade of the 21st century was anything but forgettable. Starting on a high note, the Dow industrials set a record high in January...

Seattle Times business editor

The first decade of the 21st century was anything but forgettable.

Starting on a high note, the Dow industrials set a record high in January 2000. The U.S. economy entered a record 10 straight years of growth, thanks to balanced federal budgets and low interest rates, courtesy of Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve. The Nasdaq was starting to lose altitude.

Ten years later, the Dow was trading below 11,000. Interest rates were as low as they could go, this time under the watchful and nervous eye of Ben Bernanke.

All the messy stuff in between was enough to make investors cash out their stock positions and reconsider cash and gold. That's what happened when terrorists turned four jets into weapons of mass destruction on Sept. 11, 2001, and then again a couple of weeks after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in September 2008.

The lows for the decade came in March 2009. By the time December 2009 rolled round, portfolios and positions had turned positive once again.

Many companies based in the Northwest were in the thick of these major market events. Some, such as, survived despite the bust and several recessions. Some iconic Northwest institutions did not; Washington Mutual became the largest bank failure in U.S. history and a symbol of the mortgage-crisis meltdown.

We stop in this moment of time to look back at the tumultuous aughts to recap the highs and lows of the Northwest's public companies. Business reporter Drew DeSilver writes about the common threads that tie together the best-performing companies of the decade in a story that starts on Page A1.

A closer look at the top five companies kicks off this special section, which also includes The Seattle Times' 19th annual ranking of public companies based on key factors investors watch. For the second consecutive year, not enough companies met our criteria to round out what originally was called The Northwest 100. A sign of the times.

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