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Express & Star Business Awards: University of Wolverhampton takes top title

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[gallery] The University of Wolverhampton has been hailed as 'truly outstanding' as it won the Express & Star Business of the Year title at a glittering awards ceremony.

A packed house at the Wolverhampton Racecourse on Thursday night saw the university pick up the blue riband trophy at the E&S Business Awards.

The university, headed by vice-chancellor Professor Geoff Layer, was said to demonstrate "an exceptional contribution to economic and social growth in the region. There is a significant investment of profits to provide outstanding iconic facilities for students.

Their ethos of "Our vision, your opportunity" is very much in evidence."

It narrowly beat Connect Group and Technology Management, both based in Wolverhampton, with judges describing them as "three exceptional finalists".

The event, one of the highlights of the West Midlands' business calender, attracted particularly strong group of entries this year ranging from small family firms to multi-national companies.

Winner of the Community Champion award was Wolverhampton-based services and construction giant Carillion.

It offers all employees six days paid volunteering leave per year.

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The business is involved in Ready For Work, which supports some of the most disadvantaged people entering employment and it has work experience placements for wounded service personnel. The judges said they could clearly see the difference Carillion makes.

Young Business of the Year was the Little Dessert Shop, where the leaders – they don't call themselves bosses – have gained fantastic results from their creative marketing strategy. Their viral video campaigns and social media engagement are particularly impressive at achieving sales success. Judges said: "A bright future looks assured".

Customers queue at the launch of the new menu at The Little Dessert Shop, Queen Street, Wolverhampton in April

Business Person of the Year was Lindsey Flynn, boss of training company Well Associates, who impressed the judges with her sheer focus and determination. She had identified a niche, under-served sector and secured government funding for the business. This resulted in a solid financial springboard for further growth and development.

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Marketing company Connect Group took the award for innovation. Judges said: "Specifically, it was the creation of highly responsive digital multimedia platforms that impressed at Connect. This let them build a turnkey solution which has become the cornerstone of some of the West Midlands most influential businesses and iconic brands."

The Manufacturing Champion was Jaguar Land Rover's Engine Manufacturing Centre, but it was a tough call. Judges said they were 'bowled over' by all three finalists in this category – which included A&M EDM and RP Technologies – saying the level of innovation and technical expertise seen during their visits was 'incredibly high'.

But in the end, world class innovation going hand-in-hand with first class sales performance were the outstanding qualities at JLR's engine factory. A no-fault forward approach to production plus a huge awareness of environmental responsibility are some of their other positive attributes.

The award for Excellence in Customer Service went to Walsall's HomeServe Membership.

Homeserve Membership's Martin Bennett.

This was another highly competitive category with the finalists almost impossible to separate, but judges hailed "continuous investment in staff and IT' which had enabled HomeServe to assess the team performance and encourage customer feedback, so delivering exceptional service. "Truly, building their brand from the inside out".

In an unusual move, judges asked that STK Fire and Risk Management was highly commended.

Best Use of Technology went to IT company Oosha, described by judges as "very impressive" both in their building and infrastructure. Particularly striking was their ability to offer small businesses sophisticated disaster recovery solutions at affordable rates.

The customer services team at Oosha

The award for Best Place to Work was taken by engineering firm RP Technologies, where 'workers clearly felt valued'.

"In addition the business has addressed the skills gap within the local community, working with schools and devoting time and energy on the development of apprentices."

Family Business of the Year was Aldridge building refurbishment company SPV Group.

By innovation and exceptional customer service, SPV Group has become a leading specialist in the UK market place and overseas. Employing multiple members of other families, as well as their own, the owners have created a family feel across all departments.

Small to Medum-Sized Business of the Year was Smethwick engineering company A&M EDM, but judges described all four finalists in the category as 'brilliant' .

With fellow finalists Access Bookings of Lichfield, Alcomet and Lion Containers, they set an 'incredibly high' standard with judges even suggesting the award could be split into four.

In the end, A&M was chosen as judges called it "inspirational and a leader in its field". It was commended for its investment in young and old employees alike, a shining example of what can be achieved in any industry, especially as they strive to champion UK manufacturing.

  • For full coverage of the event, including more pictures and video, see Saturday's Express & Star and Tuesday's business supplement

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