ONE of the annual highlights during my 10 years as editor of The Bolton News was the annual Business Awards.

When I took over as editor in 2008, the credit crunch was beginning to bite and the recession was looming.

Times were tough for many businesses and the outlook was not at all good.

So, it was all the more remarkable that there were so many amazing stories to be told about local companies and entrepreneurs.

Running a business at any time is hard work, especially when it is a small enterprise, but there were lots of success stories that emerged as the entries were judged and the shortlist compiled.

On the night, it was wonderful to see how much even being nominated meant to the finalists.

Those that won were genuinely overwhelmed and I know, having spoken to many winners over the years, that it has had a positive impact on their business.

This year, the awards take place next Thursday at the University of Bolton Stadium. The finalists were featured in detail in yesterday’s The Bolton News.

It promises to be a great night, as ever and despite the fact that I am no longer at the helm, I am still lucky enough to be able to attend this inspirational event.

The awards aim to celebrate all that is good about business in Bolton and gives those nominated the chance to let their hair down and relax after their hard work.

It is also the perfect opportunity for business people to come together and get an understanding of just how vibrant their community is, learn from each other and network.

Of course, these awards wouldn’t be possible without support from our sponsors.

Bolton Council has been a headline sponsor since the awards were launched and has shown a strong commitment to celebrating the best of local business.

Other local firms have kindly sponsored individual categories and have this year been heavily involved in and engaged with judging the winners.

One of the key elements in Bolton is the desire to help our workforce become as skilled as possible.

That might be by enabling them to achieve a degree at the University of Bolton, whose courses have as many links as possible with industry to ensure graduates have a strong understanding of work in the ‘real world’.

Or it might be training people as apprentices, allowing them to learn on the job, which works particularly well for companies such as Stateside Foods in Westhoughton and MBDA at Logistics North – both award sponsors.

At past ceremonies, young apprentices have spoken confidently and eloquently to a room filled with hundreds of business people to tell how they have developed and how that path has been right for them. It was always a highlight of the evening.

As ever, this year there have been lots of impressive entries – and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the finalists and wish them all the best of luck on the night.

I’m sure it will be a fantastic evening.