The Journal and the Evening Gazette are on the lookout for the best of the best - the North East business worthy of the title of Company of Year 2014.
This year, the ultimate accolade in the North East Business Awards went to Port of Tyne, the thriving gateway for the region to Europe and beyond.
The award came just a month after the port unveiled its highest cargo figure in more than 20 years.
It had also more than doubled profit to £9m and plans were in the pipeline to secure some £180m of investment that could create more than 1,200 jobs.
To be crowned the overall winner, however, the port had to be beat off tough competition in the form of rapidly expanding computer games company, Double Eleven, which triumphed in the Teesside heat, and Derwentside Homes, which was named the Durham & Wearside winner.
Port of Tyne chief executive, Andrew Moffat, said: “It was great to have recognition from our peers in business across the North East. Externally, it has helped raise our profile and therefore open up more business opportunities, while internally it has provided recognition for all of our employees who have contributed so much to our achievements over the past few years. I would encourage any company of any size thinking of entering to have a go as the process itself is beneficial and the opportunities can be very rewarding.”
This time round, the category is sponsored by FW Captital, Sunderland City Council, Deloitte and Business Durham.
The latter is the economic development company for County Durham, which aims to deliver the right environment for business and economic growth.
It is responsible for managing a portfolio of business properties, attracting inward investment and developing an innovative economy that allows companies to flourish.
Durham already has a strong manufacturing heritage and a proven track record for attracting inward investment.
Business Durham managing director Simon Goon said: “Durham prioritises the growth of its economy and business excellence is consequently central to our ambitions.
“We are therefore delighted to be sponsoring the Company of the Year Award at the Durham and Wearside Business Awards.
“We look forward to receiving nominations for this category and working with The Journal and the NECC.”
FW Capital, meanwhile, has been providing long-term growth capital to established small and medium-sized businesses in the North East since it started investing the North East Growth Plus Fund in 2010. Earlier this year, it invested £700,000 as part of a syndicate in the Durham Tees Valley Airport-based Sycamore Aviation to fund its expansion into the lucrative engine ‘tear down’ market.
This year, Tees Valley Unlimited appointed the company to manage the new Tees Valley Catalyst Fund. A UK first, this aims to help businesses bid for new contracts with the backing of short-term loans to fund advanced payment guarantees and performance and warranty bonds, as well as to extend existing bond facilities.
FW Capital fund manager Joanne Pratt said: “We have a growing portfolio of investments in the North East and we’re committed to backing more established growing businesses.
“FW Capital is proud to sponsor the 2013-14 Tees Valley Company of the Year award and we look forward to celebrating the successes of some of Tees Valley’s most exceptional companies competing for this prestigious award.”
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Cllr Paul Watson, likewise, said he was delighted to be involved in the awards, which offered the regional business community “the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate its successes and achievements”.
“The region has a remarkable ability to bounce back from tough times and, although we still have a long journey ahead of us, there is a sense that the tide is turning and the local economy is on a slow but sure road to recovery,” Cllr Watson said.
“This can be partly attributed to the resilience and commitment that the local business community has demonstrated through innovation, creativity and diversification across companies of all sizes and in all sectors. As a council, we are committed to supporting business growth and enterprise.
“These awards are a chance to celebrate the success of our businesses and we look forward to receiving many more entries this year in this prestigious category.”
Paul Feechan, senior partner at Deloitte in Newcastle, meanwhile, said the company was proud to be involved in the awards for the 14th consecutive year and to sponsor the Tyneside & Northumberland Company of the Year category.
“We are committed to the region, its people and companies, and helping them to achieve their goals,” he said.
“Each year the awards give us a fantastic opportunity to meet with and listen to the management of a number of outstanding organisations, and have the much tougher job of appraising their entries and selecting a winner.
“The awards allow us to showcase the calibre, diversity and success of North-east business.
“In our midst, we have innovative companies seeking success in different ways: introducing new and value-added products and services; winning in export markets; and restructuring to fit new business models designed for the future.’’