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All have expansion plans in solar, lasers, management softwareSANTA ROSA and PETALUMA -- Three of Sonoma County’s newest tech companies have widely diverse products: ultra-short pulse lasers, microinverters for the solar industry and project portfolio management software.

But Raydiance, Enphase Energy and Metier are alike in three ways: they each arrived within the last four years, they each consciously chose the North Bay to locate their headquarters or a major center and all three are growing as fast as they can find qualified staff.

Raydiance arrived in Petaluma from a small office in Napa, and a larger presence in Florida, in 2006. Led by former AOL Chairman and CEO Barry Schuler, the company has developed commercial ultrafast laser technology that integrates fiber optics, computing and software.

Micro medical devices, thin film processing and precious metal assaying are only a few of the applications being tested in research and development centers worldwide with the devices.

"We've been able to build the world's leading ultra-short pulse manufacturing plant in Petaluma, and we have the ability – and the intent – to expand as quickly as need be," said Raydiance President Scott Davison.

From nine employees Raydiance will have grown to more than 60 by the end of the year and will most likely double that in another year, he said.

The company closed a $20 million funding round in 2008.

In 2008, startup Enphase Energy established headquarters in Petaluma.

Enphase was the first to market with a system that includes high-efficiency microinverters, communications and Web-based analytics to maximize energy harvest and simplify design, installation and management of solar projects. The systems increase energy harvest by 5 percent to 25 percent and reduce labor costs by about 15 percent.

During its first year the company raised $21.5 million in two rounds of funding, and despite shrinking investment in solar technology and installations, secured another $22.5 million this summer.

Enphase President and CEO Paul Nahi expects the latest round of funding will carry Enphase past 2010, "and possibly to positive cash flow. Our challenge now is how to grow fast enough."

The 55-employee staff will grow to 75 to 100 within the next couple of years, he said. He believes positive state and federal legislation, falling prices on solar modules and rising utility costs will all drive the growth of solar and with it the growth of Enphase.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't lead the microinverter industry globally as well as in North America," he said.

The smallest of the three new companies and the latest to arrive is Metier (pronounced may-tee-yay), a Washington, D.C.-based project portfolio management solutions firm that chose Santa Rosa for its first branch location this year.

“Santa Rosa is a jewel. Our plans are to find a 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot location in the area,” said company co-founder and CEO Douglas Clark.

The provider of project portfolio management solutions won a contract with the State of California last year to make its information technology more efficient and transparent.

Metier studied several cities in California and many more across the country before deciding Santa Rosa was the perfect spot to grow. According to Mr. Clark the Santa Rosa office will eventually employ 60 to 120.

Currently "north of 20" employees, the branch has already outgrown its original office near Railroad Square and has 11 positions open. The company has its eye on the former AT&T telephone switching building on Third Street in downtown Santa Rosa, a structure envisioned to undergo a significant mixed-use renovation.

"Many of the company principals are here in Santa Rosa now as are marketing and sales and our virtual managed service component," said Mr. Clark, now a Sonoma County resident.

The company is ramping up its virtual managed services component that allows users of Metier software to connect to on-demand subject matter experts in project portfolio management, tech support and training site quickly from any Net-connected device.

The component is central to the growth of the company’s portfolio of national clients, including recently signed Sears Holdings, which chose Metier to deploy its solutions throughout the 3,900-store retail operation.

Metier already serves the city of Miami Beach, the Federal Aviation Administration and a long list of federal clients as well as private corporations.