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Originally published Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 10:00 PM

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Northwest 100 methodology

The Great Recession has, among other things, performed a kind of stress test on Corporate America, exposing shaky financial structures and...

The Great Recession has, among other things, performed a kind of stress test on Corporate America, exposing shaky financial structures and flawed business plans. So topping the Northwest 76 — the Great Recession version of the Northwest 100 — is something of an accomplishment.

We start with all the companies with headquarters in Washington, Oregon or Idaho traded on a major stock exchange during all of 2008 and 2009. That's why you won't find Boeing on our list, or recent IPOs such as Symetra Financial.

The next cut was the deepest: Companies whose shares closed below $2 at any time in 2008-09. That's to exclude bargain-basement stocks that can record dramatic price jumps even with rises of just a few cents per share. But the stock plunge of 2008-09 sent dozens of companies crashing through the $2 floor, excluding them from consideration.

We measure superior business performance by combining four key metrics: sales per employee, operating income, return on equity and stock-price appreciation. Together, those measurements get at a business's main purpose: efficiently using its resources to earn a return for its owners.

Each company is ranked on each metric over the previous two fiscal years, to filter out the one-hit wonders. Return on equity gets the most weight in our ranking, but no single measure predominates: To come out on top, a company needs to do well on all four metrics.

The table below displays key data for the 76 companies ranked this year. We've also sliced and diced the numbers to look at Northwest companies from a multitude of perspectives — you'll find those lists on the pages following.

Business reporter Drew DeSilver and lead news assistant Gary Dougherty compiled the data from Bloomberg News, supplemented by company reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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