THE head of Bolton's Ethnic Minorities Business Service has won a top accolade.

Sikander Badat, aged 40, triumphed in the Northern Public Sector Excellence category of the government-backed Asian Jewel Awards.

His success recognises the contribution his team has made to the local economy since Bolton Council introduced the ground-breaking EMBS initiative in 1987.

Latest figures show that there are now more than 1,500 ethnic minority-owned businesses in Bolton generating about £350 million for the Bolton economy and providing employment for more than 7,000 people, excluding family members.

Mr Badat, who was born in India, moved with his parents to live in Southport when he was about three.

The family later moved to Bolton and his father worked as a machine operator in a textile mill.

Mr Badat, who went to Deane School, later studied at University College, Salford and Durham University.

After a year with NEDA in Bolton (the former Neighbourhood Economic Development Agency), he was recruited to set-up EMBS as a council response to high unemployment levels in the ethnic minority community.

A bursary from the Commission for Racial Equality enabled him to observe black business development policies in America and adopt some ideas in Bolton.

Since then the service has helped to establish 315 businesses and assisted another 415 to achieve growth.

It is estimated that efforts in the last financial year generated a private sector investment in Bolton of £1,841,000.

"The council had the vision," Mr Badat said.

"The ethnic minority business sector is now a vital part of Bolton's economy."

The nine-strong team delivers a wide range of business support programmes and acts as a broker between companies and grant providers.

"We have been the trail-blazers in this kind of work," Mr Badat said.

"We have had towns from throughout the country wanting to know what we are doing."

He is now advocating extending the model which has been established to the mainstream business world.

"This is an excellent town." he added.

"My mum and dad made the right decision coming here."