The intense scrutiny of Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital has thrust private equity firms into the spotlight, as the presidential campaigns battle over whether such companies are good for the economy or only good for their shareholders.

Such firms pool private capital and buy companies that either have great growth potential or those that are struggling to survive. Steve Judge, president and CEO of the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, said they provide an infusion of cash the companies wouldn’t have been able to raise on their own and also offer in-depth business experience.

The ultimate goal is to make the companies succeed, so that “everyone wins,” which includes investors and employees, Judge said.