A NIGHT of celebration, inspiration and ‘heroic’ success stories marked the 2011 Lancashire Telegraph Business Awards last night.

Almost 300 people heard an enormous range of success stories as three finalists competed for the top award in each of ten categories.

An engineering firm that has increased its turnover tenfold in ten years was crowned East Lancashire’s business of the year.

Barrowford-based Merc Group, which has seen its workforce rise from 18 to 88 in the same period, scooped the prestigious title in a glittering ceremony at the awards at Ewood Park.

Merc makes products as diverse as components for Spearfish, the world’s most advanced wire-guided torpedo, and emergency doors for metro mass transit trains in the United States, Europe and south-east Asia.

p> Other winners included Blackburn’s M65 Recruitment as small business of the year while the town’s Prestige Medical took the innovation title for developing instruments which sterilise equipment for vets and dentists.

Team of the year was the area business managers of Blackburn brewer Thwaites while Darwen took double honours with WEC Group winning deal of the year while fantastic charity support by textile firm Herbert Parkinson and its staff scooped the Social and Community Development award.

Rawtenstall and Accrington retailer Simply Electricals, Simonstone-based Fort Vale Engineering, Burnley window and door frame makers VEKA and York Nurseries completed the winning line-up.

Guest speaker was Lancashire consultant Dr Kevin Jones and BBC TV’s Dianne Oxberry compered the event, which was sponsored by United Utilities, Blackburn College, Napthens, BAE Systems, Cobham plc, Blackburn with Darwen Council, Hyndburn Enterprise Trust and Community and Business Partners.