Belfast Telegraph

Honouring our best companies

By David Elliott

With the local economy showing every sign of picking up pace, there's never been a better time to celebrate the cream of the crop in our local business world.

The Belfast Telegraph Northern Ireland Business Awards in association with British Midland International (bmi) have received a wealth of entries, highlighting the incredible results produced in recent months by local companies.

Businesses of all sizes and types are shining a light on their achievements by competing for 11 awards, including the new non-entry category of Business person of the Year and the overall title of Outstanding Business of the Year.

As you can see from the finalists listed below, competition has been strong and the judges were amazed at the level of innovation and talent from companies small and large.

We've tried to give a small flavour of their achievements in the following pages but it's difficult to do them all justice in such a small space.

The more you look into each company's successes, the more impressive their performance, particularly in this economic climate.

It promises to be a night to remember, where our future economic prosperity can be celebrated.

The glittering awards night ceremony will be at the Ramada Hotel in Shaw's Bridge, Belfast on Thursday, April 7.

Young Businessperson of the Year

Sponsored by Bibby Financial Services

Shredbank director Philip Bain and his business partner James Carson established the on-site document destruction company in 2007, using a mobile shredding truck to destroy confidential information at the client's premises.

Despite competition from multi-nationals, Carryduff-based ShredBank has rapidly established itself as the leading document shredding company in Northern Ireland.

Johann Muldoon is a shareholder-director of Manor Architects. She has contributed to its success by implementing a new marketing strategy designed to identify and target niche markets and the resources needed to execute new projects.

At just 25, Conor Guy is managing director of Coalisland-based Envirogreen Recycling which operates two recycling facilities. In just over a year Conor has grown the business from a team of two to employing 25.

Excellence in the Development of Management

Sponsored by Made Not Born

Three organisations have been shortlisted in this category. Grafton Employment Group, based in Belfast, is responsible for recruiting one quarter of permanent employees, and one third of all temporary staff in Northern Ireland.

The firm has introduced a range of staff development initiatives, including Opportunity Knocks, an opportunity for employees to discuss their career with the managing director.

Autoline identifies specific training and development needs through internal assessments, which feed into personal development plans for each employee.

G4S Northern Ireland has developed a detailed learning and development strategy which was rolled out across the business.

Excellence in Marketing

Sponsored by Progressive Building Society

Based in Craigavon, WILSON'S COUNTRY has been supplying prepacked potatoes to the Irish market since the mid-1980s. Current customers include Tesco, Asda, Marks and Spencer and Spar.

Wilson's has seen an opportunity for the humble spud to become more commonplace as consumers feel the pressures and turn to basic, value for money foods.

Its marketing strategy has seen it achieve triple-digit growth figures despite an overall reduction in volume in the Irish potato market. The ULSTER MUSEUM in Belfast, part of National Museums Northern Ireland, reopened in October 2009 following a three-year, £17.8m refurbishment project.

Following a fully-integrated marketing communications strategy to increase awareness about the museum, all targets and expectations have been exceeded.

Most impressively, a plan to increase visitor numbers to 400,000 within a year of reopening was achieved four months ahead of schedule.

SHREDBANK was established in 2007. It is one of Northern Ireland's leading on-site document shredding companies.

The firm engages in regular market research to ensure the most effective allocation of its resources to various marketing initiatives.

It has exceeded several of its marketing objectives by investment in areas including telesales, corporate social responsibility and website optimisation.

Outstanding Service to Business

South Eastern Regional College (SERC), a top 30 UK college, has six campuses as well as many community venues in County Down.

SERC works with over 1,000 businesses providing cost effective, practical training solutions.

When a change of law prompted SERC to offer engineers a bespoke course to meet regulations, the college received a phenomenal response and as a result has rolled out the programme across Ireland.

ALMAC is finding solutions to respond to growing customer need. The company has developed novel systems on its supply shipments to increase the period for which shippers are qualified to maintain temperatures.

Almac has also developed STEMS - Shipping Temperature Electronic Monitoring System -designed to allow decisions over product usability to be made faster.

MCGRIGORS, an independently ranked UK top 50 law firm which merged with L'Estrange and Brett, has acted on over one third of public private partnership deals closed across the UK in 2009 and 2010.

Last year the firm advised Belfast-based commodities business W&R Barnett on its landmark £67m acquisition of a global molasses operation from Tate & Lyle.

McGrigors also advised Scottish Widows Investment Partnership on its purchase of Longwood Road Retail Park in Newtownabbey from Corbo Properties for £48m.

Best Small/Medium Business

Sponsored by Yell

Since it was set up in 2002, Employers for Childcare Vouchers, a thriving social enterprise, has helped parents save an average of £1,000 a year.

It administers childcare vouchers, which are a tax exemption on the cost of registered childcare.

The organisation fully manages the process through an online financial adminis -trations system, processing £15m a year on behalf of its clients..

Maghera-based Specialist Joinery Group (SLG), a leading manufacturer of bespoke fitted furniture, has worked on high-profile projects including the Titanic Quarter, the McClay Library at Queen's University, Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport, several luxury hotels in London and GlaxoSmithKline in Belgium.

Following a strategic review, the family business has increased employment and experienced growth in turnover and profitability.

FINNEBROGUE food manufacturer's turnover has increased to almost £9m and the business now employs 80 people after objectives set out in a three-year business plan were achieved in just 12 months.

As well as investing in innovation the company invests significantly in its staff and prides itself on its craftsmanship.

Outstanding Business Team

Sponsored by Moy Park

Formed in 2002, LATENS is an international firm with its headquarters in Belfast. It develops two types of software: one which protects the content of pay-TV operators and another which allows operators to offer their customers features including catch-up television and pause/rewind live TV interactive services.

Newry-based AUTOLINE, which is shortlisted in two categories, provides motor, home and travel insurance, commercial insurance and a full range of financial services.

The company has seen turnover growth of 77% in the last two years while employee numbers have doubled to 115 following the acquisition of five brokers across Northern Ireland.

As a leading provider of drug development solutions to the pharmaceutical and biotech market, ALMAC, which is shortlisted in three categories, has nearly 3,000 employees across the world.

The Global Business Development and Marketing team within Almac's Clinical Services business unit is based at Almac's headquarters in Craigavon and multiple sites across North America.

By keeping both clients and potential clients up to date with Almac's services it has helped it grow into a £250m business.

Excellence in Exporting

Sponsored by Northern Bank

Based in Kilkeel, B/E AEROSPACE is the world's largest manufacturer of cabin interior products for commercial aircraft.

With sales of over $250m in 2010, the company has over 200 principal customers including all of the world's major airlines.

More than 95% of sales relate to export business. The majority of these customers are in Europe, North America and emerging markets such as the Asia/Pacific Rim and the Middle East.

Set up as a spinout of Queen's University in Belfast in 1989, ANDOR designs and manufactures scientific digital cameras and instruments used in imaging, spectroscopy and microscopy applications that measure low levels of light.

The products are used in applications including drug discovery, gene analysis and forensic science and its customers are typically research laboratories, universities and industrial research centres.

Harvard and Cambridge universities are among prestigious institutions which rely on Andor's products for important research across many fields of science.

The company, which has been shortlisted in two categories, has recently opened an office in Shanghai.

ALMAC's market remains concentrated in North America and Western Europe but notable additions are Japan and India, where it intends to build upon this year through detailed research and development.

Among its products and services which have been successfully exported are manufacture of clinical supplies, clinical supply management, packaging and labelling of patient kits and warehousing, logistics and depot management.

Excellence in Innovation

Sponsored by Invest NI

Kingspan Renewables, a building products developer has created Varisol, the world's first modular vacuum tube solar collector.

The company, which has offices worldwide, developed the system at its research and development department in Portadown. Varisol now accounts for 20% of Kingspan Renewables' business worldwide.

FINNEBROGUE, a craft producer of venison and premium pork sausages, is based on the Finnebrogue Estate near Downpatrick.

The firm, which is shortlisted in two categories, distributes to Marks & Spencer and to the branded sausage business through Paul Rankin, Jimmy Doherty and the Good Little Company.

Comber-based food producer MASH DIRECT has grown into a profitable £8m business in just seven years. It has implemented a range of innovations, including the development of new products and new production equipment, enabling large volume production of its top products - mash and champ.

Telecoms research and development firm INTUNE NETWORKS employs 45 people in Belfast. It has developed networks to cope with the massive increase in unpredictable traffic demand for internet service providers while helping them sustain profitability and control costs.

Excellence in Technology

Sponsored by Cleaver Fulton Rankin

There are just two finalists in the Excellence in Technology category this year, Belfast-based companies HEARTSINE TECHNOLOGIES and ANDOR TECHNOLOGIES.

HeartSine designs, develops and manufactures automatic external defibrillators which can save the lives of those who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest.

The company was founded in 1997 by Professor John Anderson and a group of investors who wanted to place lifesaving technology in the hands, not only of medical professionals, but of everyone, whatever their skill level.

Last year the company launched the first defibrillator to give the user feedback based on cardiac output to ensure the most effective CPR for the victim.

Andor has a reputation for excellence in the global scientific digital camera market.

Throughout its 22-year history Andor has been responsible for several firsts, allowing its customers to record results in light measurements that were previously impossible to calculate.

One of its most recent innovations is a camera platform, used in a wide range of applications from low light imaging to confocal microscopy.

Outstanding Business and Businessperson of the Year

Sponsored by bmi

Businessperson of the Year is a new category for this year's awards ceremony and is a special honour that recognises the outstanding contribution of an individual in their business field over a significant period in recent years.

The Outstanding Business of the Year will be a standout company that will be selected by the judges from the winners who have been presented with an award in their individual categories.

Both winners will be announced at the gala awards dinner on Thursday, April 7 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, Shaw's Bridge, Belfast. Dress code is black tie. A table of 10 is £900 plus VAT and individual places are £100 plus VAT.

For further information or to book a table, contact JPR on or 028 9076 0066.