Success drives success

The North East Business of the Year award has helped previous winners go on to bigger and better things.

The North East Business of the Year award has helped previous winners go on to bigger and better things. Christopher Knox reports

Voyager Foods, Sunderland – 2000

SINCE picking up the gong at the inaugural ceremony, Voyager has witnessed a number of name changes and has seen its operations split in two.

Its sauce making business was sold on to Irish group Kerry, which makes Walls Sausages and Homepride bread among other products.

Under the new name of Challenger, the Wearside food company continued the poultry side of its business until selling up in 2002 to Joseph Mitchell, a chicken-rearing and processing business near Dundee for £3.5m.

It was then sold to European food group 2 Sisters earlier this year for an undisclosed sum. The £400m food company retained Challenger’s 107 staff at its poultry factory on Leechmere Industrial Estate in Sunderland. Challenger continues to service food manufacturers and is a major supplier to the sandwich, salad and pizza markets.

Synetix, Billingham – 2001

THE publicity created by the awards in 2001 helped catalyst firm Synetix’s parent company ICI to sell it on to London chemical specialist Johnson Matthey in 2002 for £261m. It still operates from the site.

K Home International, (formerly K Home Engineering) Thornaby – 2002

A SERIES of lucrative foreign contracts has helped K Home International increase its turnover from £8m to £18m since 2002. The Thornaby-based business has also grown its workforce from 120 to 350 in the last five years. It cites a number of recent deals for its ongoing success, which have included £242m worth of contracts to help build the world’s largest greenfield aluminium smelter in Qatar.

As a result, the company hopes to achieve a turnover of between £20m and £22m and a profit of between £3.5m and £4m in the coming years.

The company, established in 1973, operates in the Americas, Middle East and the Far East and has offices in Trinidad and Abu Dhabi. Managing director Trevor Arnold, said: “Before the ceremony in 2002 we thought we had a reasonable chance of winning but it was still exciting to win it as it’s a real accreditation by the North-East business community and has helped to get our name in front of a lot of people. It was a real testament to where we were and our plans for the future.”

The Esh Group, County Durham – 2003

THIS construction group has witnessed steady growth since winning the award, with its turnover expected to rise from around £125m last year to around £150m by the end of 2007.

2007 has proved a successful year for many of The Esh Group’s brands, including Lumsden and Carroll, which saw its turnover increase by 25% to £50m.

Esh was also able to rescue Northumberland-based rival Stephen Easten from administration earlier this year, saving 100 jobs. Brian Manning, chief executive at The Esh Group, said: “It’s always good for a business to win an award. It has help us to acquire a number of the businesses within the group as they saw that we were a quality outfit and user friendly”.

Dickinson Dees, Newcastle – 2004

THE law firm has managed to achieve a turnover of £60m during 2007, which has doubled since the company picked up the award in 2004.

Dickinson Dees is one of the largest independent employers in the region, with more than 900 staff working from offices in Newcastle, Tees Valley and York. Robin Bloom, senior partner at the firm, said: “It was a tremendous fillip to the company to win the award and I think what it did was make the staff realise that we were such a well respected business in the region. We always try to share our success with our staff and it was a great boost for them.

“The award had a fantastic impact on the company and has helped us grow considerably.”

The 200-year-old law firm managed to achieve an annual turnover in excess of £50m last year and advised on deals worth over £7bn, underlining its position as one of the most successful regionally-based law firms in the UK. The firm has helped with the transaction of a number of deals this year, including the recent merger of two Stockton-based renewable energy firms, AAG Swepco Ltd and AAG Electrical Ltd.

Newcastle College – 2005

THE college scooped the award for its ambitious £40m investment programme which has since seen it complete refurbishment work on the Sandyford Building, a £8.6m state-of-the-art training venue and commercial centre in the heart of Newcastle. It has also used the investment to launch a number of new innovative courses including scaffolding. Last year also saw it open a new £16m Lifestyle Academy, which has seen student applications double for courses such as Beauty, Sport and Tourism. The college recently won a large national contract to asses the NVQ in Custodial Care to prison officers across England and Wales.

Wellstream International, Newcastle 2006

PIPELINE maker Wellstream has had an impressive year since scooping the award, enabling it to launch a £35m expansion plan at its factories in Newcastle and Brazil. The Tyneside company, which employs around 500 staff, floated on the stock exchange earlier this year and wants to produce 30% more pipelines to service growing demand around the world – driven by the ever rising price of oil.

On its float, the company’s shares debuted at 320p, valuing the business at £318m, and have since risen astronomically, ending trading yesterday at 940.5p, making the company worth £937m.

Chris Braithwaite, chief operating officer of Wellstream, said: “It has been a fantastic year for Wellstream. This award is all about our people. Without the co-operation of everybody and their focused ambition, none of this would have been possible. It is great that the award has come just as we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the company.”

Frank Bucks, senior manager at Wellstream, said: “Being part of last year’s awards made us aware of the impressive size of the business community in the North-East and has helped to raise our profile within it.”

The Journal reported on Monday how the Newcastle company has won the Business of the Year accolade at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) awards in London.

THIS is the eighth year of the North-East Business Awards in its revised format. In that time these awards, organised by The Journal and its Teesside sister paper the Evening Gazette, have grown to be among the best-known and most respected throughout the business community in the North-East. Entries are invited from all types of businesses. There are three sub-regions: Tees Valley, Durham and Wearside, Tyneside and Northumberland. The 11 winners from each of these areas will go forward to the regional final, where the winners of the North-East Business Awards will be announced.

The aim of the awards

The awards aim to recognise achievement, to encourage excellence and to celebrate success.

The sponsors

The awards are sponsored by a host of companies and organisations. The sheer quality and the blue-chip nature of the sponsors adds to the prestige of the awards.

The judging

Each award has a separate judging panel with an appropriate chairperson, nominated by the award sponsor. The decision of each judging panel is final and, while every effort will be made to give feedback to entrants, no specific correspondence will be entered into.

The dinners

February 28: Tyneside and Northumberland, Newcastle Marriott Hotel Gosforth Park. March 6: Tees Valley, March 13: Durham and Wearside, Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham. May 1: Regional final, Hardwick Hall Hotel, near Sedgefield.

The categories

Small Business Award

Corporate Social Responsibility Award

Export Award

Innovation Award

Environment Award

Internet Award

Learning, Training and Skills Award

Technology Award

Services Award


Company of the Year

Cultural Business Award

How to enter

Companies and organisations can enter up to three categories. Entries must relate to activity in 2007.

Awards are open to companies of all sizes and organisations with a significant presence in any sub-region. Closing date for entries is 5pm on December 7. Nominations can be made at:


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