Let's salute our finest

Steve Smith, chief executive of Darlington-based van hire firm Northgate was last year’s Tees Valley Business Executive of the Year.

TODAY we begin the search to find the leading lights in the region’s business community with the launch of The North East Business Executive of the Year Awards 2007.

Steve Smith of Northgate, right, receives his award from Nigel Evans, Acting Dean of Teesside Business School

Steve Smith, chief executive of Darlington-based van hire firm Northgate was last year’s Tees Valley Business Executive of the Year. And today we start the search for his successor.

The prestigious awards, run by The Evening Gazette in association with the Journal on Tyneside, honour the best business people across Tyneside and Northumberland, Durham and Wearside and the Tees Valley.

The winners from each sub-region will go on to compete for the prestigious title of North East Business Executive of the Year 2007 at a gala dinner.

There will be also a separate trophy for the North East Young Business Person of the Year. They have to be aged 30 or under on Thursday, November 1.

Judges will reward excellence shown by executives from any sector, whose success is seen through published results and show promise.

Last year’s overall winner was Gordon Banham, chief executive of County Durham’s rapidly-expanding haulage company Hargreaves Services.

Today we introduce the judging panel:

Chairman - Sir Frederick Holliday

SIR Fred’s rare double – excelling at the top in business and academia, both to the good of the region – earned him the title Lifetime Achiever in last year’s awards.

His notable 27-year career in the North-east included 11 as vice-chancellor of Durham University.

He has just retired after 13 eventful years, latterly as chairman of Northumbrian Water.

Already knighted for his services to education in England, he has also contributed to North-east business in the role of non-executive director and chairman for both Brewin Dolphin financial services group and transport group Go-Ahead.

Gordon Banham

GORDON Banham, the current North East Business Executive of the Year, has built Hargreaves Services, at a cracking pace, into the largest independent importer of domestic and industrial coal – and a UK leader in bulk haulage with more than 400 tanker lorries and more than 500 staff.

He has previously led other firms in the same sector with distinction, having had to abandon university at 19 to take over the family’s coal delivery business on the death of his father.

Hargreaves produces and markets coke and petcoke products. It manages and sells ash for grouting or recycling in the block making and cement industries and processes and supplies a wide range of other minerals.

Mr Banham, 42, has been chief executive of Hargreaves since 2001, and led a management buyout there.

Vinay Bedi

VINAY Bedi is a divisional director and fund manager at investment management and financial services firm Wise Speke. He joined Newcastle-based Wise Speke, a division of Brewin Dolphin Securities, in 1988 having previously worked in the group’s Manchester office.

He started his career as a smaller companies and leisure analyst during the 80s and 90s, and was well known for his involvement in the flotation of a number of companies including several within the football sector. He turned to fund management in 1998 and now specialises in managing portfolios for high net worth individuals, charities and pension funds.

He has been on the panel of judges for the North East Business Exec of the Year since 2000.

David Buffham

DAVID Buffham became the Bank of England’s Agent for the North-east in September 2001.

His role is to assess the economic conditions as seen from the region and most of his time is spent discussing current trends with a wide cross section of businesses in the region.

These discussions form the basis of regular reports to the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee as part of their interest rate setting process.

Before joining the Agency, David spent two years at the Bank’s Centre for Central Banking Studies as an adviser on monetary operations.

Sarah Green

SARAH Green joined the Confederation of British Industry in November 2005 as regional director, North East.

Sarah’s role includes lobbying on behalf of business in the North-east to influence regional policy and acting as a conduit with members and CBI’s policy team in Centre Point on issues of national relevance.

Having graduated with a law degree from Sheffield University in 1995, Sarah was admitted as a solicitor in 1999.

Sarah trained and qualified with Clifford Chance working in Hong Kong, Shanghai and London as a commercial and project finance lawyer.

Sarah returned to her native North-east in 2003 where she joined the communications directorate for regional develoment agency One NorthEast.

John Irwin

JOHN Irwin is a director of storeys:ssp, the property consultancy and chartered surveyors practice who advise clients on all aspects of their commercial and industrial assets.

He has practised in the North-east since 1970 and became a founder shareholder following the management buy-back of Storey Sons and Parker in 1991.

Storeys now employ about 150 staff and last year grew its turnover to £7m from offices in Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Leeds, Manchester, London and Edinburgh.

He moved to Teesside from Newcastle in 1980 and has grown the office from five to 25 staff and provides the full range of property-related services.

James Ramsbotham

JAMES Ramsbotham is chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce.

NECC is the voice of business in the North-east and takes the lead on a number of regional issues and campaigns for business.

Previously he was vice chairman of the Esh Group – the award winning North-east construction group. Prior to that he spent 14 years in Barclays Bank (throughout the UK) and before that he had 12 years soldiering in the Royal Green Jackets (throughout the world).

He is a Deputy Lieutenant for County Durham, a non-exec director of Darlington Building Society, chairman of the Learning and Skills Council in the North-east and also gives time to Newcastle University, Durham Cathedral, Auckland Castle, County Durham Development Company, Sunderland AFC Foundation, Common Purpose UK, Tyneside Cyrenians, St John’s Ambulance and the Gillian Dickinson Trust.

Ian Williams

IAN Williams was appointed as regional development agency’s One NorthEast’s director of business and industry last month.

He is currently responsible for the Business and Industry Directorate and, together with his management team, supports the formation, growth and productivity of the region’s businesses.

In his previous role and prior to his promotion, he headed One NorthEast’s Business Products Team of 50 people and was responsible for the management of investment schemes, programme monitoring of £139m worth of regional and sub-regional partnership programmes and also skills, rural and economic inclusion activities. Joining One NorthEast in July 2003, Mr Ian has a background of 21 years public service in the North-east delivering a variety of DTI and other economic and enterprise development initiatives.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer