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When brothers Ken and Gary Bringhurst were students at Brigham Young University in the 1980s, they were certain they could offer fairly inexpensive simulated three-dimensional images for computers that could be used on something other than a bulky mainframe.

They formed a business, Strata Inc., in St. George and in 1988 released their first 3-D software application for the Macintosh computer: Strata Vision 3-d.Today, the company ranks among the top five private employers in southern Utah and probably is among the top three in the region as far as pay.

Strata is one of four Utah businesses named as 1996 Blue Chip Enterprises for overcoming adversity and creatively molding their success.

The winners were feted Wednesday at a luncheon at Little America by MassMutual/The Blue Chip Com-pany. These businesses were chosen from 600 contenders from around the nation by a volunteer panel of judges.

Strata was deemed Utah's top designee.

The Bringhursts started with money borrowed from Zions Bank. "Zions was pretty good about loaning some funds against some real estate. It's typical of a bank to not be real excited about loaning to an unknown entity that might not be able to repay, and they don't like to foreclose on real estate," said Ken Bringhurst, the company's CEO. "Zions was pretty good."

The brothers also used some inheritance money, and once Strata was established, they formed an alliance with Evans & Sutherland that has turned out to be mutually beneficial.

One of Strata's early problems was huge marketplace acceptance but tough cash-flow problems.

"We've been profitable for the most part throughout our history, but profitability is one thing and cash flow is another issue," Bringhurst said. "That's a problem for every small, fast-growing company."

Besides the healthy relationships with their financial partners, the Bringhurst brothers also realized how stunningly competitive their field was and always tried to outdo the competition, even when they went head to head with such giants as Microsoft, Adobe Systems and Macromedia Inc.

"In our business, you either add new products or upgrade existing ones. We've been able to stay on top of it and stay very competitive. It's a very fast-moving business," Bringhurst said.

Today, Strata is the world's largest supplier of multimedia tools. "When you measure the size by the number of people who own or use your tools, we have the largest installed base of any tool center," Bringhurst said.

The other Utah Blue Chip winners are MHTN Architects Inc. of Salt Lake City, Osborne Specialty Sewing Inc. of West Valley City and Bear Creek Country Kitchens of Heber City.