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Under-the-Radar Hot Industries For Small Business Profits

Stocks in this article: ABAX IDXX WOOF AIRM NTSC

2. Ambulance services

The ambulance services industry includes private and municipal operators that provide patients ground or air transportation and medical care, the IBISWorld report says. IBISWorld expects industry revenue to rise at an average annual rate of 5.8% to $17.8 billion by 2017.

For entrepreneurs, there is big opportunity as a result of the cutback in state and local government funding. As municipalities struggle, curtailing emergency services is an unfortunate reality, presenting small private ambulance companies significant opportunity to partner with local firefighters and other emergency providers and, more specifically, franchising opportunities, Kelly notes. Health care reform will also create opportunity for the industry as increased Medicare reimbursements increase consumers' abilities to pay for services.

Another reason for the growing need of private ambulance services: developments of stroke and heart-failure treatments have helped to lengthen the time between incident and treatment, which allows for transportation to the hospital, the report says.

Once again though, barriers to entry can be high in the form of licensing and registration requirements for emergency care. But entry into the market for non-emergency medical transportation services is easier and less costly (even though Medicare is unlikely to cover non-medical services, Kelly cautions). There is a huge opportunity in the growing private market for non-emergency transportation services due to an aging population and as senior citizens live longer, Kelly says.

Players in the ambulance services industry include Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Emergency Medical Services and Air Methods (AIRM) and Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Rural/Metro, which has a smaller share of the market. The four largest players in the sector only account for 24.3% of industry revenue, according to IBISWorld data.

3. Laboratory-based product testing services

Laboratory testing services includes companies that perform physical, chemical and other analytical testing for commercial purposes in the product manufacturing, medical device, as well as for the government.

The lab testing industry is growing from the increased government regulation on consumer goods, particularly the environmental impact, as well as in the private sector, where a rise in research and development expenditures (despite the recession) has lead to increased product testing.

As in the other under-the-radar growing industries, profit relies on building relationships and establishing long-term fixed contracts. A good way for small players to break into the industry is to confine their services to a niche market -- health and medical devices, telecommunication, mobile devices, automotive parts, electronics, energy pipelines, or solar panels, just to name a few items.

IBISWorld expects industry revenue to rise at an average annual rate of 7.4% to $22.5 billion by 2017.

A high level of specialization limits the threat of new market entrants, but also has allowed companies to increase profitability quicker and stronger than the overall industry, Kelly says.

Notable U.S. players include Underwriters Laboratories and National Technical Systems (NTSC), a smaller player in the field. The four largest players in the sector only account for 15.3% of industry revenue, according to IBISWorld data.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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