At the end of a night of high drama Marston's Beer Company took the blue riband title at the sold-out awards event at Wolverhampton Racecourse.
The company, which has been brewing Banks's ale at the Park Brewery since 1875, has now grown to operate half a dozen breweries across the UK. The company's visibly moved managing director, Richard Westwood, said: "It's all down to our people, they are at the heart of what we do."
In front of an audience of around 400 at the racecourse last night, event compere Alan Dedicoat – TV's famous 'Voice of the Balls' on the National Lottery programmes – described it as an evening "to celebrate everything that is great about business, here in the Black Country and south Staffordshire".
The evening's only individual award, for Business Person of the Year, went to Henry Carver, head of Wolverhampton's Carvers Building Supplies. The judges said: "Carvers was destroyed by fire five years ago and Henry Carver’s exemplary leadership has produced a business that is now bigger and better than ever in a tough marketplace."
In a moving tribute to his workforce, Mr Carver told the audience: "I am only here because the people I employ are better than me."
The first prize of the evening had gone to The Little Dessert Shop, as Young Business of the Year. Alan Dedicoat said: "The Little Dessert Shop found favour with the judges because of the way its formula of stylish desserts had proved a winner with a growing young audience."
The award for Best Use of Technology went to Dudley Building Society. The team at the society was described as 'impressive', developing a highly effective new platform that not only transforms their ability to launch and market products, but improves the whole customer experience as well.
The Customer Service Champion was STK Fire and Risk Management, based on Wolverhampton Science Park. "Customer safety is at the heart of STK Fire and Risk Management," said the judged. "With a clear strategy to retain and gain new customers, the whole team agree that with their knowledge they could give the best possible advice."
Hailed for "an impressive commitment towards every single employee", the winner of the highly competitive Best Place to Work award was Walsall-based household repair and insurance group HomeServe Membership. The judges said: "An amazing culture change with a defined vision was clearly embraced by all employees at HomeServe Membership. There is also a distinct commitment to go the extra mile for customers and employees alike."
The Community Champion award went to Aldridge-based roofing and building refurbishment business SPV. Alan Dedicoat said: "The team at SPV Group has recently joined Business in the Community. As we heard in the video their support is varied with a number of organisations benefitting and the judges could see the value in the personal development of their staff."
Three "passionate and entreprenurial' companies vied in a close-fought battle for the title of Manufacturing Champion. But, in the end of the day, auto parts company Roadlink International in Willenhall narrowly edged ahead of rivals Petford Tools and A&M EDM. Judges said: "Roadlink International has cornered the market with commendable margins and a clear focus plan for the future. Training and employing local people with an ethos of assured quality was apparent during the visit."
The Growth & Innovation Award went to building company Arthur M Griffiths & Son, in another hard-fought category. AMG was hailed by the judges who said the firm's "rapid expansion has been achieved through a combination of modern building methods and a traditional adherence to the highest industry standards. Their determination to ‘put something back’ into the local community is striking."
Micro Business of the Year was independent financial advice firm Wealth Design, based in Cannock. Judges said: "An outstanding commitment to customer service was just one of the striking aspects at Wealth Design. It was obvious the whole company was committed to ensuring the happiness of their clients by offering the best financial advice possible."
Small and Medium-Sized Business of the Year was Willenhall-based shop front manufacturers 1st Access UK. Judges said: "The story at 1st Access UK is of a family firm that has grown from a brave idea launched in a bedroom office to a successful and expanding operation - thanks to the dedication, courage and initiative of its owners."
The event – sponsored by Altodigital, ArchOver, Aspray24, BDO, Black Country Chamber of Commerce – The Platinum Group, Carvers Building Supplies, City of Wolverhampton Council, Higgs & Sons, Jaguar Land Rover, UTC Aerospace Systems and associate sponsors Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton Racecourse, event production company Yarrington and Star Employment Services – also raised several thousand pounds through donations on the evening for chosen charity the Beacon Centre for the Blind.