Making Hay in Hard Times

Layoffs and shrinking budgets at public companies have sparked growth in the number of small investor-relations firms

For Beth Saunders, founder of Chicago-based Ashton Partners, business has never been better. Last year, her investor-relations firm's revenues grew 70% to just under $3 million and she's expecting a 75% growth this year as well. Saunders has hired 10 people in the last 12 months and is scouting around for about 8 more to join her 30-person staff this year.

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