Video: Night of celebration for cream of West Midlands business
It was a night of euphoric cheers and wild celebration for the 11 companies who took the trophies in the Express & Star Business Awards 2014.
The winners of the hotly-contested categories were announced at a glittering three-course awards dinner in the Ringside Suite at Wolverhampton Racecourse last night.
Guests walked down a red carpet to enter a champagne reception and were able to have their photographs taken with Ugly Sisters Nigel Ellacott and Lee Redwood from Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, which sponsored the reception.
The pair were helping promote the theatre's next family pantomime Cinderella, which will star Julian Clary and runs from December 6 to January 18.
Compere for the evening was Alan Dedicoat, best known as the National Lottery's Voice of the Balls.
He gave the 420 guests humorous advice on how to win the lottery.
"Avoid the number 43," he said, before producing the lottery ball bearing that number from his jacket pocket to raucous laughter.
The first award of the evening went to Alan Nuttall, of Hall Street, Dudley, which employs more than 400 in designing, making and installing shop display equipment.
The company received the innovation award, sponsored by the University of Wolverhampton, and design manager Rob Bowles said: "We are really elated and very happy to have won.
"We have a dedicated workforce and are committed to innovation and design for the future."
Judges said that they were impressed by the company's research and technology it utilised. It has invested more than £1 million in new machinery and processes in the last 12 months.
Village Urban Resort in Dudley scooped the award for best place to work after a unanimous decision from the judging panel.
Darryl Holdnall, general manager at the Castlegate Park-based business said the award was testament to the work the firm had put in to ensure staff satisfaction.
"Our customers reap the benefits of a happy workforce, which is what we have worked hard to achieve here," he said.
"We have implemented a lot of tools to make this a great place to work and the staff deliver day in, day out. This is really for the team.
"I'm absolutely chuffed for everyone here."
The award for outstanding not-for-profit organisation was presented to Tipton-based Groundwork West Midlands.
Chairman Waheed Saleem said it was a 'wonderful boost' for the environmental regeneration charity.
Groundwork won for its imaginative project in partnership with Interserve to involve young people in transforming the Wood Green Allotments into a community asset.
"Winning the award is a testament to all our staff, the partnership with Interserve and all the kids who have made a real difference," said Mr Saleem
The export award went to workplace furniture manufacturer Boss Design. The Dudley-based firm has invested heavily in its overseas strategy, a move which operations manager Virginia Seaward said has paid dividends.
"Our aim as a company has always been to keep manufacturing in the Midlands at the forefront of industry," she said.
"We have worked so hard at our overseas strategy and thankfully it has paid off.
"By meeting customer demand we now export all over the world. As a team we have put our heart and soul into Boss Design. We're passionate about what we do and this award is an acknowledgement of that."
"It is a fantastic achievement."
Family firm Inex Home Improvements, of Willenhall, won the business growth award.
Managing director Dean Nunn, who started the business 13 years ago with his wife Janine, said: "I'm gobsmacked and really chuffed to have won."
Mr Nunn described Inex, which has doubled its revenue in just 18 months after undergoing a restructuring, as 'a happy family, who cry and laugh together.'
The construction and building company, which now employs 46, has won a series of awards this year.
Metsec landed the apprentice employer of the year award after judges praised the engineering firm for the strenuous efforts it has made to attract young people.
Steve Giles, training manager at the Oldbury-based business, said: "We have been nominated for awards before and to finally win one is brilliant.
"As a firm we have spent a lot of time getting the apprenticeship process right and making sure we cast our net far and wide to find the right people."
The firm started taking on apprentices in 1999 and is now in a position where 13 per cent of the total workforce of 337 have been through the scheme.
"Our apprentices are the future of the company," added Mr Giles. "To win this award is the icing on the cake for a lot of hard work."
The title of manufacturing champion went to Exol Lubricants, of All Saints Road, Wednesbury.
Managing director and owner Steve Everitt said he was delighted to win in the year it was celebrating its 30th anniversary.
The company, which employs 120, is taking on another five to 10 with the opening of its new head office and production facility in August following a £2m investment.
"We have a good team of employees here. We are in a difficult market and winning this award will help us with our growth," said Mr Everitt.
Willenhall-based food and drink, wholesale, retail and distribution group A F Blakemore & Son was crowned community champion.
Judges' commented that the widespread involvement of staff at all levels in community projects was key to the firm's success, an observation which supervisor administrator Jo Steventon was keen to emphasise.
"Everyone at the firm gets involved in the work we do in the community," she said. "To see our name up there as winners makes it all worthwhile.
"We are proud of the area we work in and to give something back to the community really benefits the company by getting everyone working together as a team."
Clare Knowles, the firm's corporate affairs officer added: "The majority of the work we do is in areas of high deprivation and it makes sense to us to support these areas."
The 97-year-old family owned company has supported almost 50,000 people in 322 community groups since its community engagement programme started in 2008.
Young business of the year was won by Engineers Mate, of Pensnett Estate, Kingswinford, which is in its third year of trading.
Chris Bowyer, one of three directors of the e-commerce business which supplies engineering components and spares, said: "It is absolutely fantastic to have won. It has been hard work but there have been really terrific results for the company in the last two years.
"Last year we were finalists in this award and this year we have gone the whole hog to win."
Engineers Mate is on course to double its turnover to £1,2m in the current financial year.
Top Tubes won the small to medium-sized business of the year - much to the delight of the firm's 21-strong party who greeted the announcement with loud cheers.
The Wednesbury business invested almost £2m last year, a move which director Adam Bradley was key to the firm's success.
"We have invested in tools and machinery so we can offer the very best to our customers," he said.
"This is our 20th year and this is the first time we have gone up for an award. To win it is fantastic."
The firm's skilled workforce of 110 manufacture precision welded steel, laser cut and slotted steel tubes at its Smith Road plant.
Fellow director Matt Bradley added: "We also invest in people and we have great strength in our workforce.
"We are all Black Country born and bred and getting this award is recognition of our manufacturing heritage."
The night's last and most prestigious award - business of the year - went to Palletways, of Fradley, near Lichfield.
The palletised freight network company, which won best place to work in the 2013 Express & Star Business Awards, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Managing director Martyn Young said: "We started out in an old aircraft hangar on a industrial estate in Fradley with two forklift drivers and one office person.
"Today we have grown to take over the whiole estate and have six sheds and we employ 350 with 300 independent hauliers now linked in with us.
"Our success came from having the idea to see if we could get hauliers to team together. Winning the award has been down to a real team effort."
The awards were sponsored by Jaguar Land Rover, BDO, WHG, Lloyds Bank, Aspray24, Wolverhampton City Council, UTC Aerospace Systems, Higgs & Sons, Carvers and the University of Wolverhampton.
Guests were also invited to make donations to aid chosen charity Alzheimer's Society, which raises funds for care and research, and also took part in a charity raffle.
A prize of first class Virgin Trains rail tickets was won by Helen Walsh, a member of the Carvers party; a balloon flight for two was won by Dave Darlaston, with Crowe Clarke Whitehall; Grand Theatre pantomime tickets were won by Helen Lane, a member of the Walsall Housing Group's party and a half case of wine and champagne was won by Waheed Saleem, chairman of Groundwork.
See next Tuesday's Business supplement for profiles on all 11 winners