The Port's business community turned out in style for the Examiner's 2018 Annual Business Awards in Shoal Bay last Wednesday night.
At the newly opened Shoal Bay Country Club convention centre, about 400 people - business owners, their staff and supporters plus awards sponsors, councillors and VIPs - enjoyed a fun-filled night of celebration.
The main event, though, was the announcement of the winners of the 40 award categories and the 2018 Overall Business of the Year Award.
This year the Overall Business of the Year Award went to Kathy Rimmer and her team at Yin Yang Consultancy. Earlier in the night, Yin Yang Consultancy won the Learning, Training or Recruitment award.
Examiner editor Anna Wolf said the awards night was about recognising the “cream of the crop”.
“It is a night to reflect on the achievements of businesses in the area and celebrate the outstanding service, dedication and commitment that you all deliver each and every day,” she said.
“Just being a finalist is testament to your hard work and service the community.
“To have the title of Port Stephens Examiner Annual Business Awards finalist means your customers and community have voted for you to become one of the top five businesses in your category across the whole of Port Stephens. You should all be as proud of this achievement as I am for you.
“To add to the accolades, we have had more votes this year than in the past five years with more than 9000 individual votes counted and over 400 businesses entering the event.”
Port Stephens Deputy Mayor Sarah Smith opened the awards on Wednesday night. In her speech to the audience, she spoke about the importance the Port's 4700 small businesses have not just on the economy but in the community.
“You serve our community, you create employment opportunities for our locals, and you make our towns more vibrant places to live and visit,” Cr Smith said.
“We recognise that while retail is still an important sector of our economy – every sector does its bit to employ thousands in our region.
“From tourism to construction, food services to heavy industry, our $4.8 billion dollar economy is incredibly diverse.
“That's thousands of people who can pay their bills, feed their families and build a life in Port Stephens because of businesses like yours.”
The 40 awards finalists were announced during a course of entrees, mains and dessert.
The voter prize, which this year was a $1000 shopping spree at Salamander Bay Square, was drawn mid-way through the night.
In announcing the Overall Business of the Year Award at the end of the night, Samantha Newman, the Lower Hunter and Port Stephens Sales Manager, called it was the “gold standard” of awards.
“This award is not just based on the judges scores,” she said. “It is based on the a lot of contributing factors which have been meticulously scrutinised and carefully considered to make the final decision.
“Some of those factors included overall customer satisfaction and glowing customer testimonials, what the business gives back to the Port Stephens community in its day-to-day trade and how it goes above and beyond for the community – giving back where no profit is made.”
The night was emceed once again by Ross Melville, Fairfax Media’s marketing and promotions manager Newcastle/Hunter and New England.