Like the Incredible Hulk, dividends are a force to be reckoned with.

If you ask me, there is no better way to quickly determine the overall attractiveness of a stock than by checking out its dividend. Dividends can give you a sense of whether a company is really making money, whether its stock is reasonably valued, and how management views shareholders. All in all, it's a pretty mighty number.

And while most investors are very familiar with dividend royalty like Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), there are also plenty of good dividend-paying companies that are small enough to fly under Wall Street's radar. And many of these undercover dividend payers offer higher dividend payouts, better growth, or both.

To uncover some of these small dividend dynamos, I turned to the Motley Fool CAPS community, looking specifically for companies with a market cap below $5 billion and a dividend yield above 2.5%.


Market Cap

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Navios Maritime (NYSE:NM)

$707 million



Otter Tail (NASDAQ:OTTR)

$859 million



Frontier Communications (NYSE:FTR)

$2.4 billion



World Wrestling Entertainment

$1.2 billion



Advance America, Cash Advance Centers

$342 million



Sources: CAPS and Yahoo! Finance.

While the stocks above are all definitely small and dividend-paying, it's apparent that the CAPS community doesn't think they're all worth your investment dollars. They could all be worth researching further, though, and to get you started, let's take a closer look at Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation Otter Tail.

The business
Otter Tail started out as a simple electric utility, but its management realized that the geographies that it served (Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota) would offer little opportunity to grow.

Although electric power still makes up the bulk of the company's bottom line, the company now owns a wide range of other businesses, from PVC pipe manufacturing, to wind tower manufacturing, to diagnostic medical equipment. In terms of future prospects, Otter Tail is probably better aligned with industrial conglomerates like GE (NYSE:GE) and 3M (NYSE:MMM) than electric utilities like Southern Co.

The dividend
Because of its electric utility operations, Otter Tail must continually invest significant money into capital spending. So unfortunately, the company's cash flow statement doesn't look ideal. In fact, over the past few years, the company has spent a significant amount more on capital expenditures than it's brought in through operating cash flow.

However, Otter Tail has been able to take on new debt to make ends meet, and despite these new loans, the company's EBIT-to-interest ratio is still within a safe range. And as far as the dividends go, it's notable that the company has not had an interruption in its dividend payment since 1938.

CAPS members sound off
On CAPS, Otter Tail sports a perfect five-star rating, thanks to 1,022 outperform ratings against just 22 underperforms.

Many of the Otter Tail bulls like that the company has been diligently going after the burgeoning market for wind power. Others, like CAPS All-Star FAOFool, simply think it's a solid company worth owning for the long term. FAOFool gave Otter Tail's stock a thumbs-up back in November and had this to say:

Diversification at a good price will help this company through up and down markets. It's focus on energy is also positive for stable, future income.

Your turn
Think these dividend payers have what it takes to be top-notch investments? Head over to CAPS and share your thoughts on the prospects for Otter Tail or any of the other companies listed above.

Want to start off 2010 on the right foot? How about getting rid of any bad investments in your portfolio. Here are my three tips for identifying terrible investments.

Otter Tail is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection. Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and Southern Co. are Income Investor picks. Coca-Cola and 3M are Inside Value picks. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of Coca-Cola, but does not own shares of any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool. The Fool's disclosure policy has never once been caught with its pants down. Of course, it doesn't actually wear pants ...