I always look forward to this time of year as I prepare to judge the entries for the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in partnership with Ulster Bank. For the last few years that I have been part of the judging panel, I have always been impressed by the quality of the entries and the great stories of company success and innovation across all parts of the businesses.
There is no more important an issue than creating the conditions to start up the next generation of entrepreneurs, particularly in our local retail sector. Indeed, a post-Brexit Northern Ireland needs to be a self-confident, outward-looking innovative region that is the very best place in the UK and Ireland to locate and, crucially, to start a business.
His sunny outlook earned him the nickname 'Smiler' while he was at primary school on the Ards peninsula. And Richard Donnan, head of Ulster Bank - the title sponsor of this week's Belfast Telegraph Business Awards - continues to apply a positive attitude towards life and work.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is delighted to sponsor the Belfast Telegraph's Young Business Person of the Year Award. This award recognises the outstanding work and valuable contribution young professionals and managers make to their industry.
The business landscape in Northern Ireland has been changing in recent years. We are seeing many new and creative start-up businesses embracing new IT solutions to be able to compete more effectively in the healthcare sector as the changing nature of customer care becomes a key focus.
Good businesses do not develop without effort, skill and satisfying their customers. In Northern Ireland there are many businesses growing stronger in their marketplace - more than is usually acknowledged. Many are unsung but can gain greater recognition, attract more customers and demonstrate that mix of quality, performance and reputation that gives enduring success.
Ulster Bank is to partner with the Belfast Telegraph for this year's Business Awards, now in their 15th year. The Belfast Telegraph Business Awards, in partnership with Ulster Bank, are now open for entry, with three new categories announced for this year's awards, which will take place during a glittering ceremony at the Crowne Plaza, Belfast on Thursday, May 4.
The Belfast Telegraph Business Awards are now the longest established and best-supported awards covering a complete range of businesses in Northern Ireland. Each of the judges brings an extra degree of expertise so that the combined results are, we hope, fair and representative.
The Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in association with British Airways 2016 are fast approaching. We've had a high standard of entries this year so whittling down our entrants to a shortlist has been a tough job for our panel of judges. But here are the lucky finalists who'll find out if they've won at a glittering ceremony in the Culloden Hotel next Thursday night.
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