Steve is Tees Valley's best

The business executive declared the best in the Tees Valley has praised his staff for the part they have played in the company's success.

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

The business executive declared the best in the Tees Valley has praised his staff for the part they have played in the company's success.

Steve Smith, chief executive of commercial vehicle hire firm Northgate, took the area title at the North East Business Executive of the Year awards.

In recent years he has steered the Darlington-based company through the process of several acquisitions.

This year its business empire was expanded when it bought Arriva Vehicle Rental and Fleet Technique Ltd.

It has also broadened its horizons in to Europe with the acquisition of two commercial vehicle hire businesses - Fulsa and Record - in Spain.

Northgate, which is one of the Tees Valley's few locally-based plcs, employs more than 3,000 people, is a £372m turnover operation with a network of 20 hire companies operating from 88 sites across the UK.

Mr Smith said: "I would like to thank my colleagues at Northgate for all their help and support and what they have contributed to our enormous success."

He recently told the Gazette about his business philosophy and how he was under no illusions about the rental market.

"When you park one white van next to another, it's still just a white van," he said candidly.

"You have to work at making a difference."

The honours are organised by the Evening Gazette and The Journal in Newcastle.

There was one winner each from Tees Valley, Tyneside and Northumberland, and Durham and Wearside.

Those named the best in each area went on to vie for the prestigious North East Business Executive of the Year title.

The runners-up in the Tees Valley category were:

* Alan Harbottle, chairman of Analox Sensor Technology, of Stokesley, which specialises in gas monitoring equipment and which has recently announced it is to invest £750,000 in a new, environmentally friendly headquarters, which will double staff numbers to 90.

* Chris Musgrave, chairman of Wynyard Ltd, who bought the former Samsung site where tens of millions of pounds have since been invested. The business park is today home to 20 companies employing 500 people and £1bn is expected to be ploughed into the site during its 20-year development bringing the prospect of 10,000 jobs.

The executive taking the regional crown was Gordon Banham who has built Hargreaves Services, of Esh Winning, County Durham, into the largest independent importer of domestic and industrial coal and a UK leader in bulk haulage with more than 400 lorry tankers.

Roger Duggan, of IDS, Boldon, which makes and markets testing kits for clinical and research markets, was named the Tyneside and Northumberland Business Executive of the Year.

The Young Business Person of the Year trophy was won by Tark Nseir, 25 founder of Th_nk, of Newcastle, a brand technology group with a turnover of £2.4m.

One of the runners-up in this category was 27-year-old Haani Hasnain, chief executive of Hartlepool-based Haani Cables, which is planning a £2.5m expansion of its factory.

Chairman of the judges Sir Ian Wrigglesworth said: "This event provides a showcase for the most outstanding business leaders in the region. People who have an outstanding track record, dynamism, the ability to face challenges and strong leadership skills.

"The region needs more successful people like the finalists tonight."

A Lifetime Achievement award went to Sir Fred Holliday, former vice chancellor of Durham University and past chairman of Northumbrian Water and transport group Go-Ahead.

He said: "Moving here to the North-east is quite the best thing I did in my life."

* A special North East Business Executive of the Year supplement will be published with the Evening Gazette on Tuesday.

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