Achievement in the business world was celebrated in some spectacular events during 2006. The events team for The Journal and our sister paper the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough excelled themselves with well-organised, sold-out events throughout the year.
While the North-East Business Awards was again the most high-profile, and most popular event of the year, we also celebrated success in several other ways.
May: North-East Business Awards 2006
The top business awards in the region came to their fantastic conclusion at a celebratory dinner in May this year. Newcastle College emerged victorious as the overall Company of the Year.
The college took the top prize at the awards, organised by The Journal and its Teesside sister paper the Evening Gazette.
The awards formed the climax of the black-tie dinner at the Hardwick Hall Hotel in Sedgefield, which saw the cream of the North-East business community addressed by guest speaker, Trade Secretary Alastair Darling, deputising for Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had been called away to the US.
Judges picked Newcastle College for its combination of outstanding performance and ambitious investment.
Newcastle College principal Jackie Fisher said: "We are working hard to address the skills agenda of the region and sometimes we feel that you don't recognise we are a business too, with all the business values you have and we aspire to have."
Ncj media regional managing director Steve Brown paid tribute to the entrants, judges and sponsors of the annual event.
He said: "Since this became a regional event in 2001, we have had over 1,300 different companies enter these awards. That 81% of the companies who entered this year were companies who had not entered before ensured that it was an event that stayed fresh and that got a level of engagement from business that is unique to the North-East."
Other prizes were presented to Crafter's Companion for small business, the Esh Group for business in the community, Analox Sensor Technology for export, YooNoo for internet & ICT, Durham Scientific Crystals for innovation, BP Cats Terminal for environment, PD Teesport for learning, training & skills, Centre for Process Innovation for technology, Watson Burton for services and Tanfield Engineering Systems for manufacturing.
October: Landmark Awards
The cream of the region's property industry gathered on Tyneside to see Durham's outstanding Rivergreen Centre named The Journal's North-East Landmark of the Year.
More than 300 property professionals attended the third glittering Landmark Awards at The Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, overlooking the Tyne Bridge. Judges praised the serviced office and conference centre in Aykley Heads - which took away the environmental title as well as the most sought after award of the night - for "considering the environment at every turn" while still producing "an extremely high-quality office building".
They were also impressed by the commitment shown by Rivergreen Developments to bring the project to fruition.
Winners of the awards, which are sponsored by Watson Burton LLP law firm, were also announced in retail/leisure, environmental, public sector and residential development categories.
Developer and contractor Rivergreen Developments plc worked with Newcastle architect Jane Darbyshire & David Kendall with the intention of minimising the effect on the environment at every stage - from the building orientation to the choice of materials.
CITB-ConstructionSkills' and Landmark judge Simon Murray said: "The building has been designed and constructed in an extremely sympathetic manner taking into account the greenfield site, surrounding woodland, mature hedging and surrounding countryside and wildlife."
October: Fastest 50
The event celebrating the region's fastest growing companies saw a familiar name on the top trophy.
The hotel arm of the leisure group owned by Duncan Bannatyne, the Darlington-based star of the BBC's Dragons' Den, was revealed as the North-East's fastest growing company.
The Fastest 50 league - sponsored by law firm Ward Hadaway for the eighth year and backed by The Journal - is the annual growth survey which all businesses pay attention to.
Bannatyne's Hotels Limited, part of the larger leisure group which also runs leisure clubs, bars and casinos, walked away with the overall prize, as well as being named fastest growing small business.
The formidable growth achievements of Gateshead-based carbon steel plate producer Spartan UK, which was named fastest growing large company, and Stockton energy management company PX Limited, which took away the fastest growing medium business accolade, were also recognised at an awards ceremony at The Sage Gateshead international music centre.
Bannatyne Group projects director Tony Bell, who is sure there is more growth to come, said: "Being able to grow is about going with your gut instinct and that's what Duncan Bannatyne does.
"He does some market research but he doesn't spend weeks and weeks looking at it. We have a gut instinct on things, Duncan presses the button and we go for it."
Ward Hadaway partner Colin Hewitt said: "The businesses in the Fastest 50 are not just the businesses to watch tomorrow, they are the cream of the region's businesses today.
"We are delighted to be associated with this success."
November: North-East Business Executive of the Year
Gordon Banham toasted a fantastic year of success at haulage firm-to-coal importer Hargreaves Services by being named our North-East Business Executive of the Year.
The modest chief executive was 2006's victor in the region's most prestigious business title for individuals.
At a celebratory dinner at the Newcastle Marriott Hotel, Gosforth Park, Mr Banham was the judges' top choice from nine finalists picked from more than 50 top executives. He told guests: "It's an absolute privilege to be here and win this award.
"The thing about being a successful business executive is picking the right team and I am just realising the wealth of talent there is in the North-East.
"We have 1,400 staff and hope to be close to 2,000 next year.
"We are like a football team - we argue from time to time but when we get on the pitch we kick in the same direction and put a lot of goals in."
Mr Banham has already led a management buyout, floated the County Durham plc to the tune of £21.5m on the Alternative Investment Market and, with a run of shrewd acquisitions this year, guided it towards a £200m turnover.
It is now one of the UK's biggest bulk haulage businesses and the largest independent importer of domestic and industrial coal.
Runners-up were Dr Roger Duggan, managing director of IDS, Boldon, South Tyneside, and Steve Smith, chief executive of Northgate. They, too, won titles.
Duggan is now Durham and Wearside Business Executive of the Year, and Smith the Tees Valley Business Executive of the Year.