The best businesses from across our region have entered the North-East Business Awards and now we are ready to reveal the shortlist for the Tyneside & Northumberland sub-region.
The judges have met, debated, and argued over the entrants' merits and finally we have the top three companies in each of the 11 categories, as well as the shortlist for our new region-wide award for cultural and creative businesses.
Tickets for our award dinners are selling fast but there are still a few places available. The Tyneside & Northumberland dinner will be held on Thursday, March 22; the Tees Valley event is on Thursday, March 29; the Durham & Wearside dinner will be held on Thursday April, 5; and the North-East Business Awards Regional Final will take place on Thursday, May 24.
Company of the Year
Aesica Pharmaceuticals, Cramlington.
Formed through a management buy-out from BASF in 2004, Aesica has since gone on to establish a strong reputation in the pharmaceutical industry. The company employs 240 staff at its base in Cramlington, Northumberland, and has also acquired a site in north London from industry giant Merck. This positioned Aesica as a company that was capable of "punching above its weight". The supply agreement which came with the site doubled Aesica's sales overnight.
The 100-strong construction business has seen massive growth over the last two years - doubling in size. The company, newly relocated to Gosforth, Newcastle, recognised in 2004 while it enjoyed a good reputation for quality work, it was seen as old fashioned, small, steady and safe. It has now moved on substantially. One key development has been to move from a purely passive company, responding to tenders, to actively seeking out new work.
Wellstream International, Newcastle.
The oil and gas pipeline company has been operating under its present management since 2003 when it was bought from US multinational Halliburton. With 473 staff at its base on the riverside at Walker, Wellstream is a major employer in the city of Newcastle, and has recently grown in the global marketplace with a new production base in Brazil.
Small Business Award
Sponsor: Business Link Tyne & Wear
This five-year-old company is a full service business research agency that provides both qualitative and quantitative research for businesses. The company has seen strong growth and has a strong reputation for the expertise it can provide.
This 22-year-old business is a successful designer and maker of specialist equestrian safety equipment. It is recognised as an industry leader in equestrian body armour and sells to customers around the globe.
This company makes both infra-red and white-light lights for the closed circuit television industry. Its many innovations have made it one of the world leaders in its field and it is seeing a strong growth in sales.
Fawthrop McLanders, Newcastle.
The marketing and design agency has created a software product which allows conference attendees to ask questions of the speaker and for the speaker to then choose which they want to answer or display, allowing several to be asked simultaneously and a record to be kept.
Jade Care International, Gateshead.
This small, two-year-old business has created a portable hand washing unit which needs neither plumbing nor electricity. The company has built up a reputation across Europe for the quality and value of its unusual product.
Workplace Travel Plan Company, Newcastle.
This company is the work of managing director Peter Wignall, new media specialist Phil Lindsay and training and customer support professional Diane Ward. It has created a web-based tool to support the travel planning business of local councils.
Sponsors: Alliance Leicester Commercial Bank.
Comesys Europe, Cramlington.
The eight staff at this manufacturer of vehicle control systems, largely electronic accelerator pedals, have grown on the back of its unique products which are popular with vehicle makers looking to control the amount of fuel used - and thus the amount of pollution.
The eight staff develop and supply innovative decision support software for the global healthcare industry. Its products are used to help in ensuring correct prescriptions are issued.
The two staff design and supply a range of giant rear projection screens which are used at outdoor events. The design enables multimedia messages to be screened where normally just a poster would be displayed - and at a fraction of the cost of rival technologies.
Internet and ICT
Sponsors: Blackett Hart & Pratt Solicitors
Cockerel Software (trading as Courage & Co or SDLT), Hexham.
This two-year-old company with two full time and a few part-time staff helps conveyancing legal firms to quickly complete clients' stamp duty tax return forms which uses the internet. It has seen sales soar of its web-downloadable product, which is expected to continue to grow and develop.
Gott Technical Services, Morpeth.
This 27-year-old supplier of automotive workshop and industrial equipment decided to invest significantly in IT systems in 1996 and this became its most important operational tool. It has meant it can share information quickly, source products quicker and more cheaply, win customers and serve them better.
Market eStalls, Whitley Bay.
Pamela Robson's year-old business aims to be an online farmers' market where small farm traders can sell goods and has a growing band of traders.
It has just launched a forum dedicated to farmers' markets and aims to have 3,000 members in six months.
Sponsor: EEF Northern.
Aesica Pharmaceuticals, Cramlington.
This company employs 240 staff making pharmaceuticals to demanding specifications.
It has cut costs hugely while speeding some processes and improving product reliability through rethinking processes and investment in equipment to improve sales in a tough global market.
Responsive Engineering Group, Gateshead.
This seven-year-old company with 102 staff carries out services including laser and waterjet cutting, welding and machining.
It has grown sales by nearly a quarter a year for the last two years after winning large contracts which are spread across its constituent companies, investing in equipment, improving training and developing new techniques.
Thermo Fisher Scientific, Cramlington.
This 14-year-old company with 117 staff makes products used in laboratories and biopharmaceutical companies when they make drugs - so they are very clean and made to exacting demands. Last year sales soared after new organisation strategies were introduced which helped improve efficiency and productivity and save money.
Sponsor: Northumbrian Water
Aesica Pharmaceuticals, Cramlington.
This impressive two-year-old drugs plant, which has already been shortlisted in the Company of the Year and Manufacturing categories, has dramatically cut waste and pollution as well as installing wind masts to generate its own electricity.
It has also worked with local ecologists to help nearby flora and fauna and helped provide an on-site nature area for schoolchildren.
This 18-year-old company with 418 staff is a major designer, innovator and global provider of bespoke subsea umbilical systems and power cables to the offshore oil and gas industry.
It has cut waste, encouraged recycling and led environmental projects.
The five staff at the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment management consultancy and collection company have been explaining incoming laws on the disposal of waste to companies through seminars, publications and training programmes for more than 18 months.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Sponsor: Northern Rock
Akzo Nobel, Gateshead.
The international paint company employs 850 staff at its North-East base at Felling, Gateshead. The business produces anti-fouling and anti-abrasion coatings, and ballast tank coatings, amongst a wide range of products worldwide. Every employee is given a copy of Akzo Nobel's book on Corporate Social Responsibility, entitled What's Your Point!
Jesmond Swimming Project, Newcastle.
The pool in the centre of Jesmond is operated by a local community charity as a non-profit organisation. After undergoing considerable refurbishment, the pool now operates as a small leisure centre. With 40 staff and 33 volunteers making a contribution. Jesmond Pool has an important role to play in its local community.
The international accountancy and professional services firm has a substantial base on Sandyford Road in Newcastle with more than 300 staff. The business has a CSR policy which aims to understand PwC's place in the society where its staff operate, and its impact on those staff, clients, society and the environment.
Sponsor: Knight Frank
Croft Technology, Newcastle.
The IT company has grown into a 112 employee business since being formed with just three employees in 1980. Croft offers products, consultancy and support to businesses throughout the UK. Such is the company's reputation, it can boast `preferred partner' status with the likes of Microsoft, HP and Cisco.
EEF Northern, Washington.
The manufacturing body has seen substantial growth and development in recent years. EEF Northern now employs nearly 40 staff and has doubled its turnover in the last five years. The organisation advises more than 450 of the biggest names in North-East business and is recognised as an authoritative voice on all issues affecting the manufacturing sector in our region.
Northern Doctors Urgent Care, Newcastle.
Based in Gosforth Business Park on the edge of Newcastle, the business specialises in providing out of hours medical care. Northern Doctors Urgent Care covers an area containing nearly a million potential patients in the Tyneside and Northumberland area. It operates with 20 full time and 107 part time staff, as well as sub-contracting to nearly 350 GPs.
Sponsor: UK Trade & Investment
Gate 7, Gateshead.
The 28-strong staff of Gate 7 produce specialist signage and printed material for installation on what most of us know as diggers - the Off Road Industrial Vehicle (ORIV) market which is dominated by names such as Caterpillar, Komatsu and JCB. Gate 7 has grown rapidly since its formation in 2000 into a genuinely international business, with 85% of its sales coming through exports.
Formed in 1990 as a partnership between Alan and Michele (correct) Finch, The Old Fashioned Football Shirt company has gone on to great heights. The business produces perfect replica football shirts from years gone by, and such has been its popularity around the globe, exports now account for around a quarter of the company's sales.
Walker Filtration, Washington.
The business manufactures a range of products for use in compressed air, compressed gas, vacuum and medical applications. More than 100 staff at the company's base in Washington make products for customers all over the world. No less than four fifths of the company's income is generated through exports.
Learning, Training & Skills
Sponsor: Newcastle College
Parkdean Holidays, Gosforth, Newcastle.
The company operates 20 holiday parks throughout the UK. It has developed a thorough company handbook for all employees which encourages self-assessment, and sets goals for improving standards. It covers everything from the standards of dress expected from employees to issues such as using empathetic language in dealing with complaints.
SCA Hygiene, Prudhoe, Northumberland
The giant paper mill in Prudhoe employs 400 staff and is part of Swedish parent Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget based in Stockholm. The team produces more than 100,000 tonnes of paper products every year. Recent investment in new technology has been accompanied by a new focus on skills, linked to the NVQ qualification programme.
The manufacturer of undersea oil and gas pipelines and power cables employs 418 staff at its riverside base. Duco identified where in the organisation there was a need for training and set about implementing a thorough training schedule, to meet consistent standards throughout the company.
Region-wide category Cultural and Creative
Sponsor: Arts Council England
The bgroup, Newcastle.
Directors Siobhan Bales and Diane Gates lead a 19-strong team at bgroup's Charlotte Square headquarters. The company calls itself a creative agency which provides services in branding, design, internet, strategy, campaigns and copywriting. The business has a particular focus on enterprise promotion and business growth. Clients include the Aspire campaign, centre of excellence Codeworks and Durham University.
Dinamic Ceramics Northumbria, Ashington.
Based in Ashington, the five strong team at Dinamic produce ceramic products aimed at the North-East's growing tourism market. The business operates as a social enterprise which offers employment and work trials to people with mental, learning and physical disabilities. Dinamic works with North-East graphic designers to make truly local products.
The business formed by young entrepreneur Tarek Nseir describes itself as a brand technology company that offers a range of web-based products and strategies to its clients. Its stated aim is to make brands "come alive" online. The company has grown rapidly since being formed less than three years ago and has recently moved into the high profile 55 Degrees North building in the centre of Newcastle.