IT IS always a pleasure to introduce the Fastest 50, all the more so this year since it is the tenth anniversary of the list.
When we at Ward Hadaway first set out to compile a run-down of the North-East's quickest growing companies, it was with the intention of highlighting and celebrating the region’s business achievements, to demonstrate that the North-East could overcome structural economic problems on its own and be a leader in its own right.
These principles still hold true today and, while outside help has still not been fulsome in areas such as transport investment, we have even more reasons to celebrate as we chalk up our tenth Fastest 50.
Engineering and manufacturing has been a staple of the region's economy for decades. Despite the rapid pace of globalisation and the seemingly unstoppable rise of China, the North-East's manufacturing and engineering companies have not only survived, but thrived. Focusing on high value, high skilled areas with an emphasis on bespoke design has reaped rich rewards. Allied to the region's long-standing pride in the quality of workmanship and willingness to put in the hours, it makes a potent combination which has secured customers from across the world in sectors ranging from civil engineering to the marine and offshore industry.
Science is set to play an increasingly important part in the future of the region.
Newcastle has already been given Science City status, while Sunderland's willingness to embrace information technology in all its forms has seen it named as one of the world's most intelligent cities.
There has been tremendous interest from across the world in the pioneering work being carried out at the Centre for Life in Newcastle. Whilst giving immediate positive knock-on effects in terms of the region's reputation as a centre for cutting edge science, there is even greater commercial potential from the results of that research.
Science has also acted as a catalyst for major public/private sector partnership projects in the region, such as NetPark in Sedgefield, Digital City in Middlesbrough and the Petec plastic electronics centre on Teesside.
The North-East seems unique in being able to harnessing the strengths of the different sectors and combining them to produce genuine agents for economic change and progress, as demonstrated by these showpiece developments and scores of smaller, equally valuable projects.
And when things don't work out the way we would have wanted, the resilience and determination of the region to just get on with things never fails to impress. When the Government decided last month to site a new Energy Technologies Institute in the Midlands rather than the North-East, there was no hand-wringing or finger-pointing from the region's bid team, merely a promise to continue their ground-breaking work on tackling climate change without outside help.
This confidence in the region's abilities was not mere bluster, but was built on solid foundations.
We have world-leading energy businesses here, in wind power, solar power and in biofuels.
The North-East's process industry is also going great guns as major producers choose to remain in the region to develop their next generation of products.
And our professional services sector continues to grow and make its mark on the national and international stages.
All of these developments will shape our economy for years to come - as well as having their impact on future Fastest 50 lists.
So as we celebrate our tenth Fastest 50 we can look forward with confidence to many more.