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Part of a statewide construction boom, Camden Southline apartments in Charlotte were built by Samet Corp., which jumped 29 spots on the list.
A wave of acquisitions, a more robust economy and the ability to keep a massive supply chain rolling have more than doubled sales at American Tire Distributors Inc. over the last five years, putting it atop the annual list of North Carolina’s largest private companies for the first time.
The Huntersville-based company has deep roots in the state, dating to 1935 when J.H. Heafner opened a tire business in Lincolnton. Sales accelerated to more than $5 billion annually after TPG Capital, one of the biggest U.S. private-equity groups, bought ATD in 2010 in a transaction valued at $1.3 billion. Earlier this year, TPG sold about half of its stake for $620 million to Ares Management LP, a New York-based asset manager.  ATD later withdrew plans for an initial public offering. The company bought eight tire distributors between 2010 and 2013 and now has 140 distribution centers in the U.S. and Canada. “It’s an honor for ATD to be named as the top private company in the state by Business North Carolina magazine,” president and CEO Bill Berry said in an email.
The list is compiled by Grant Thornton LLP, a Chicago-based company with 57 offices across the country. “We started the North Carolina 100 program 31 years ago because we believe that North Carolina’s private companies are one of the great untold success stories of this fast-growing economy,” says CEO Mike McGuire, who helped develop the initial ranking as an accountant in Charlotte in 1984. “They deserve more recognition for all their contributions to our state and our people.”
Belk Inc., which had held the No. 1 spot since 2010, did not participate this year after announcing in August that it was being sold to Sycamore Partners of New York for $3 billion. Two formerly high-ranking companies were acquired last year by publicly held rivals: Raleigh-based General Parts Co. was bought by Advance Auto Parts Inc. of Roanoke, Va., while Greenwich, Conn.-based XPO Logistics Inc. took over High Point’s New Breed Logistics Inc., which was ranked No. 11 on last year’s list.
This year’s list reflects a sizzling construction market that helped several builders and contractors rise sharply in the rankings, including Samet Corp., Eastwood Construction LLC, James R. Vannoy & Sons Construction Co., Precision Walls Inc. and Baker Roofing Co. Charlotte-based real-estate developer Crescent Communities advanced the most, scaling the chart to No. 17 from 73rd last year.
The growth reflects pent-up demand as the housing market recovers from the 2007-09 recession, says Todd Mansfield, Crescent’s president and CEO. A predecessor company of Crescent, jointly owned by Duke Energy and a Morgan Stanley Co. fund, filed for bankruptcy in 2010. But it’s back on offense, building apartments in Charlotte and the Triangle and developing second-home communities. Its largest project in development is Palmetto Bluff near Hilton Head, S.C., where homes priced from $600,000 to more than $3 million dot former timberland.“Our investments are now starting to be monetized,” Mansfield says. “We’ve had a very high demand for multifamily communities and that has led to our growth.”

Other big movers include solar-power developers FLS Energy Inc. of Asheville, which jumped 31 spots to No. 56 and Strata Solar LLC of Chapel Hill, which moved from No. 51 to No. 24. North Carolina ranks fourth in the nation for solar production, according to a September study by Environment North Carolina, a Raleigh-based nonprofit. But solar power’s future was clouded this fall when state lawmakers axed a tax credit program that had spurred development.

Click here to view the North Carolina 100 list of top private companies.

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