The presentation was made by Jeremy Garside, managing director of law firm and awards sponsor Chadwick Lawrence, who told guests: “David Armitage has business – and Huddersfield – in his blood.”
Accepting the award, Mr Armitage said he was shocked, but added: “It is a tremendous honour.”
He said: “Sellers are one of the last survivors in textile machinery, but we are still in there fighting.
“We have exported £120m of machinery around the world since 1985, which is a great credit to our business.”
Mr Armitage thanked his wife, Carol, for her support and praised Sellers staff past and present for their dedication.
Mr Armitage is spearheading ambitious plans for the Waterfront Quarter – a scheme to transform the Sellers site and surrounding land to provide offices, flats and leisure facilities.
Huddersfield Technical College has expressed an interest in moving to the site, which it is hoped will open up the south side of Huddersfield to further development.
Mr Armitage said: “Huddersfield is bouncing back. It has a good council with the political parties working together, it has a progressive university and if we can get the technical college into the right environment it will be a showpiece.”
Mr Armitage was brought up in Birchencliffe, the son of John Sykes Armitage, who learned his trade as a butcher at Huddersfield Co-op before starting his own business in Lindley.
Young David attended Kaye’s College, where he gained the maximum seven O-levels before qualifying with Simpson Wood chartered accountants in Market Street. He worked at Smith and Garton in John William Street before going into industry.
He joined Sellers textile engineering company at Chapel Hill in 1969 – after turning down a chance to become assistant to the chief accountant at the much bigger concern, David Brown Gear Industries in Lockwood – because he preferred to be “a big fish in a small pool”.
Within 10 years, he had been appointed to the Sellers board and became managing director in 1981. He bought the business four years later from its Australian owners.
One of his first decisions was to open premises in Georgia, USA, to service machinery for textile customers in North and South America.
Sellers also expanded into travel agency and leisure, increased turnover and excelled in export markets.
Mr Armitage has a long association with Huddersfield Choral Society, of which he is a past president, and has helped raise thousands of pounds for charities, including Huddersfield Hospital League of Friends, the Huddersfield Breast Cancer Appeal and the Kirklees Mayor's Charity Appeal.
For 20 years, his company has also sponsored Sellers International Band and has been a keen supporter of junior cricket.
In 2005, he received an honorary degree in business administration from Huddersfield University. And last year, became one of 25 leading local people to be named as Ambassadors for Huddersfield to promote the town.