The Northern Echo celebrated the very best of North East business last night.

Across ten categories, we acknowledged the incredible contributions some of the region’s best businesses, and the people behind them at our second BUSINESSiQ Awards.

Among the big winners revealed at a glitzy ceremony at Ramside Hall were Business of the Year the Applebridge Family, and Ellen Thinnesen OBE, CEO of the Education Partnership North East was named Inspirational Leader of the Year.

Local legend Alfie Joey hosted the event which came with cheers, glasses raised and applause aplenty as the ten winners were announced.

The Northern Echo: Alfie Joey.Alfie Joey. (Image: CHRIS BOOTH)

Special guest Hays Travel Chair Dame Irene Hays, spoke to Alfie as the evening got underway. As she told of her and late husband John’s journey into business Dame Irene said: “I am really proud to be here. Whilst our public sector is incredibly important it’s the economy that makes the world go around. The economy starts primarily with people who start their own businesses and grow into medium sized businesses or large businesses.

“Every time I come to an awards ceremony, I go home learning much more than I came with.

“I think it’s really important that we help to look after the North East – I am a passionate regionalist.”

The Northern Echo: Dame Irene Hays speaks to Alfie Joey at the BUSINESSiQ Awards.Dame Irene Hays speaks to Alfie Joey at the BUSINESSiQ Awards. (Image: CHRIS BOOTH)

Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer and his Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves were also in attendance, speaking to North East business figures at a drinks reception before the ceremony.

The Northern Echo: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Sir Keir Starmer at The Northern Echo's BUSINESSiQ Awards. Pictured with Steve Cram and his partner Allison Curbishley.Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Sir Keir Starmer at The Northern Echo's BUSINESSiQ Awards. Pictured with Steve Cram and his partner Allison Curbishley. (Image: Chris Booth)

BUSINESSiQ Editor Mike Hughes said: “What a night. We knew we would have to work hard to beat last year's event - but the feedback has been amazing.

"The stars of the show are, of course, the businesses we are celebrating and their amazing leaders, and it was so gratifying to see the enthusiasm and support from the audience as each winner was announced. 

"I have always believed this region's most powerful asset is its willingness to collaborate and work together for the good of the North East, and last night showed just how deep that runs - everyone was there for each other.

"Now to start planning the 2025 event...."

Alife Joey, who returned after hosting the inaugural BUSINESSiQ Awards in 2023, said: “There was no question if I was asked back I was coming back.

The Northern Echo: BUSINESSiQ Awards 2024 at Ramside Hall.BUSINESSiQ Awards 2024 at Ramside Hall. (Image: Chris Booth)

“I do lots of business awards, and have done for many years, but this from a standing start was exceptional - everything from the excitement in the room to the energy of the winners. You could feel it tonight, it’s such a good thing for the North East and to reward companies old, new and those who are flying just to carry on doing stuff to make the region a better place.

“It’s one of my favourite sights as a host seeing people buzzing with joy at being rewarded for what they’ve worked so hard for. Some of these people pour their hearts and souls into what they do and make huge sacrifices, working long hours or staying away from families because they think it’s worth it and when they get that award it is.

“One of my big frustrations is when people say the North East is a hidden gem. People come and visit and think it’s all closed pits, shipyards, whippets and caps, and are shocked it’s really good. Tonight is about getting yourself out there, showing people your medals.”

The full list of winners

The Northern Echo: All the winners of our 2024 BUSINESSiQ Awards.All the winners of our 2024 BUSINESSiQ Awards. (Image: CHRIS BOOTH)

Training and Skills Award - Wilton Engineering

Innovation Award - Wootzano

Creative Business of the Year - New World Designs  

New Business of the Year - Reclaro

Export Champion Award - Cleveland Cable Company

Diversity and Inclusion Award - Middlesbrough College Group

Employee Health and Wellbeing Award - Gestamp Tallent Limited

Community Impact Award - Newcastle Building Society

Net Zero Award - Redcar and Cleveland College (ETC)

Business of the Year - Applebridge Family

Inspirational Leader of the Year - Ellen Thinnesen OBE

Read more about all of the winners and full coverage of the night in our BUSINESSiQ Awards supplement in The Northern Echo on Wednesday (May 1).

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