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BFS Capital Blog

What are the Top Growth Industries? Depends Who You Ask

July 8, 2013

If there’s one thing (among the many) that we’ve learned in spades over recent years is that there is no business sector that isn’t affected by things like dynamic market conditions, foreign competition and ever-changing consumer whims and behavior. In other words, a sector can be hot, and then it’s not.

It’s hard to keep up with which sectors have the most potential for business growth, and often it’s a matter of who you ask and what criteria they’re using to do the ranking. So to pinpoint industries that head up various growth lists, we decided to look at several different sources of information.

First up is, which based its Top 10 Fastest Growing Industries for Small Business on an analysis from Sageworks. Some of the items on the list, like #1, might surprise you: After years in the tank, residential building is making a strong comeback. Even more striking is that nearly all of these industries are B2B, not B2C. Only #9 could even have a consumer component. The takeaway, at least according to this list: B2B is where the growth is for small businesses—or those thinking about starting one. Here are the top 10:

  1. Residential building construction
  2. Building custom software and servers for business
  3. Machinery, equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers
  4. Management, scientific and technical consulting services.
  5. Architectural, engineering and related services
  6. Foundation, structure and building exterior contractors
  7. Building finishing contractors who make additions, alterations, maintenance and repairs
  8. General freight trucking
  9. Services to buildings and dwellings, including pest exterminators, janitorial services and landscaping.
  10. Other specialty trade contractors, including site preparation activities and other specialized trades

There are more surprises, especially in’s list of the slowest growing sectors. Check it out here.

Looking at things through a completely different and much broader lens, The Washington Post’s Wonkblog examines the top 10 fastest growing U.S. industries, according to IBIS World, the world’s largest independent publisher of U.S. industry research. It’s a very different and interesting list:

  1. Generic pharmaceuticals
  2. Solar panel manufacturing
  3. For-profit universities
  4. Pilates and yoga studios
  5. Self-tanning product manufacturing
  6. 3-D printer manufacturing
  7. Social network game development
  8. Hot sauce production
  9. Green and sustainable building construction
  10. Online eyeglasses sales

Imagine dropping in from outer space, trying to put together a composite picture of life in the U.S. using this list! But Wonkblog contributor Brad Plummer says that even some of the more unusual entries make some sense when you look at the driving forces behind the growth. Self-tanners? Really? But as we’ve become more aware of the dangers of the sun and tanning beds, we’ve sought out alternatives: creams, sprays, mousses. And what about hot sauces? Demographic changes, immigration and a growing popularity in spicier, ethnic foods have led to an explosion in hot sauce sales!

For good measure, we also turned to a news blog, where last December contributor and author Rick Newman wrote about The 10 best industries for 2013. Also drawing on research from IBIS World, Newman’s list of the hottest industries was based on the percentage of jobs they were likely to gain or lose this year. According to this “best” criterion, here are the industries that topped the list:

    • Social networking sites (projected +51% in jobs)
    • Social network game development (+36%)
    • Video game publishing (+35%)
    • Voice over IP (+28%)
    • Sustainable building materials (+26%)
    • Online payment processing software (+22%)
    • Green building construction (+22)
    • Home builders (+14%)
    • Remodeling (+12%)
    • Wire and cable manufacturing (+11%)

So, take your pick. All of the industries here are growing and offer lots of opportunity, albeit in different ways and for different reasons.

Image courtesy of ddpavumba /

How has your industry performed over the past several years? Are you able to take advantage of any of the fast-growing industries mentioned here?