list/jb/mike1st/mark2nd

JOE BEL BRUNO Staff Reporter

Most of the larger women-owned businesses in the Los Angeles area have at least one thing in common: revenue growth.

Of the 100 largest L.A.-area companies owned by women, only 17 reported lower revenues in 1996 than the year before.

As a group, the 100 companies generated $1.8 billion in revenues last year a $300 million increase from 1995.

The figures provide further evidence of the growing clout of women-owned companies in the Los Angeles economy of the 1990s, said Karen Caplan, L.A. chapter president of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

"There are a lot of savvy women business owners out there that are bringing fresh ideas to the marketplace," she said. "They own diverse businesses in what is probably one of the most diverse cities in the nation, when it comes to the kinds of businesses out there."

One of L.A.'s fastest growing women-owned businesses is James R. Gary & Co. Ltd.

The Woodland Hills-based real estate brokerage posted $260 million in revenues last year, up almost $100 million from 1995. The increase comes as the San Fernando Valley's real estate market rebounds from losses suffered during the Northridge earthquake in 1994.

Linda Gary, the firm's president, said she expects women-owned businesses to grow dramatically over the next decade. Many of these firms are fairly new, she said, and have yet to fully grow.

"Women don't have that long of a history," she said. "This company was started 20 years ago, and we've had that time to develop, grow and become known in the community."

The company was started by Gary's husband in 1978. He died of a heart attack in 1992, and she became president the next year.

Another strong showing on this year's List is the Don Kott Auto Center. The Carson-based auto dealership came in at No. 2, despite its revenues dipping from $165.6 million in 1995 to $156.8 million last year.

Company President Margaret Kott, who says she expects revenues to jump back up again in 1997, noted that gender plays no role in determining business success even in the auto industry.

"You'd think this is an industry heavily dominated by men," she said. "But that's a stereotype that we and others have broken. There is tough competition out there, and customers care more about service than who runs the company."

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