TODAY we launch the Lancashire Telegraph Business Awards 2012 – and the premier event in the area’s business calendar is set to be the best yet.

The awards celebrate enterprise at its best and firms and individuals from all sectors are being urged to enter for a chance to be recognised and rewarded for their successes during the past 12 months.

There are 11 categories, including the prestigious Business of the Year title, a new award recognising manufacturing excellence and others including innovation and technology, export, deals, environment and high street retailing.

Our team award also puts the spotlight on groups of employees who have really made a difference.

The social and community development title applauds firms that put something back into their communities.

Sponsors this year are Blackburn College, Accrol Papers, BAE Systems , Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley councils, worldwide business experts Deloitte, Hyndburn Enterprise Trust and legal firm Napthens.

Entries will be accepted until Monday, September 10, and the winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony at Ewood Park, Blackburn on November 16.

Lancashire Telegraph editor Kevin Young said: “The awards climax with the largest annual gathering of East Lancashire business people and are the ideal way to acknowledge and celebrate richly-deserved success.

“These are difficult times for all businesses but we know that here in East Lancashire, innovation, talent and hard work is helping many enterprises to beat the recession. We are proud to showcase their efforts.”

Ian Clinton, principal of leading sponsor Blackburn College, said: “As one of the largest FE colleges in the region, we are committed to training and developing the next generation of skilled workers and business leaders for our region. Training has and will always be a crucial aspect in moving any business forward and we are committed to providing the highest quality to employers.

“We are thrilled to be sponsoring the Lancashire Telegraph Business Awards for the second year running. We’ve had a proud association with the Telegraph and local and regional employers over many years and the awards are an excellent way for us to demonstrate our continuing commitment and support for local businesses, and the community. We wish all the entrants the best of luck.”

Helen Clayton, director of Entrepreneurial Business at Deloitte in the North West, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Lancashire Telegraph Business Awards and in particular the Deal of the Year category. East Lancashire boasts some of most entrepreneurial and fast-growing businesses in the North West, many of whom are involved in transformational deals.

“These companies form the backbone of the economy and are essential to the future prosperity of the region, so we are proud to play our part in recognising success.”