IT was a night to celebrate business success.
More than 300 people packed the Galpharm Stadium for a glittering black-tie dinner and presentation ceremony at the Examiner Business Awards.
Outstanding individuals and organisations took the accolades and the applause of an enthusiastic audience for winning categories which included ones for new businesses, small and medium-sized enterprises, international trade, employers, e-commerce and the environment.
Sectors represented among the winners and nominees included engineering, marketing, retailing, construction, the food industry, textiles, financial services and business services.
The landmark event, held in association with Huddersfield law firm Chadwick Lawrence, included three “surprise” categories.
The winner of the most prestigious prize on the night, Business Person of the Year, was Jonathan Thornton, chairman of Linthwaite-based Thornton & Ross, who was recognised for his leadership of the well-known family-owned firm and his commitment to the local business community.
The trophy was presented by Jeremy Garside, managing partner of law firm Chadwick Lawrence, which sponsored the category as well as the Examiner Business Awards.
Presenting the award, Mr Garside introduced Mr Thornton as “a man who certainly isn’t afraid of hard work – but who knows the value of having a good time”.
Making reference to Mr Thornton’s love of sailing, football and real ale, Mr Garside also stressed his role as the chairman of a family firm which has grown during his tenure to become one of the UK’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of pharmaceuticals and household products through a series of astute acquisitions as well as through solid organic growth.
Mr Thornton represents the third generation of the original founders of Thornton & Ross, which was launched in 1922 and has grown to become an international player in its industry – with products ranging from Covonia cough syrup and Radian B muscle rub to Stardrops multi- purpose cleaner and Zoflora disinfectant.
Mr Thornton said: “I’m totally surprised. I had no inkling of this outcome. We are proud to have been in the Colne Valley for more than 80 years and have played a great role within the community.
“We have some great people at Thornton and Ross and I’m sure this award is deserved for the efforts they have put in.”
A special Judge’s Award was presented by independent judge Prof John Thompson, of Huddersfield University, to Lockwood-based engineering firm David Brown Gear Systems.
The award was made in recognition of the gear firm’s 150 years’ service to the town.
The company was established in 1860 to make patterns for gears and grew to become a world-leading manufacturer of gears for use in products ranging from Challenger tanks, Formula 1 racing cars and Royal Navy ships to conveyor systems and bakery ovens. Its latest success is supplying parts for offshore wind turbines.
David Brown is one of Huddersfield’s foremost companies and has manufacturing sites, sales offices or distributors in countries around the world, including France, Sweden, China, Thailand, South Africa, Australia and the USA.
Other major category winners honoured at the awards evening included Stores Direct Ltd, which was named Revell Ward SME of the Year; Suma Wholefoods, which was recognised as Employer of the Year; SimplyBiz Services PLC, named Business of the Year; and Equi-Trek Ltd, which secured the prize for HSBC Commercial Banking International Business of the Year.
Huddersfield University was recognised with the Kirklees Council Green Award while Marsden shop The Cuckoo’s Nest flew away with the Community Award.
Chef Tim Bilton, of The Butcher’s Arms at Hepworth, was Fantastic Media Young Business Person of the Year while the title of New Business of the Year went to Five Star AutoCentre and the E-Commerce Award was won by ambitious online retailer buy it Direct.
The award for Innovation with Technology went to the Textile Centre of Excellence for bringing exciting new products to the market – including fibres and fabrics made from carbon and other materials to make components that are lighter and stronger than steel and “smart” fabrics which detect and inhibit bacterial growth, shield against radar and provide protection against fire and dangerous chemicals.
Broadcaster Declan Curry, who is familiar to television and radio audiences for programmes covering big business and personal finance, was guest speaker at the event.
“Tonight is all about celebrating your successes.
“You have survived the worst recession in our lifetimes and you are fitter and leaner.
“The important thing is that you are still here.”
But he warned: “The next three years could be just as tough as the last three. Taxes will go up and work from the public sector will be reduced.
“Workers will lose their jobs and consumers will be frugal.”
But Declan said: “If you have been able to survive the past three years you are tough enough and resilient enough to survive whatever the next three years will throw at us.”
As well as cutting costs, Declan urged firms to “scan the horizon for new opportunities.”
“Tough times are an opportunity to develop a more distinctive and better product.
“So much of what we need for a strong sustainable economy is here in this room tonight,” he said.
BBC Look North presenter Harry Gration again hosted the proceedings, which included fundraising for Kirkwood Hospice and leukaemia charity The Anthony Nolan Trust in memory of Examiner reporter Adrian Sudbury, who campaigned for more people to sign up as bone marrow donors.
Guests included the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of Kirklees, Clr Eric Firth and Mrs Janet Firth; category sponsors, award judges and leading figures from the local business community.