(6.30pm 3 August 2011, Barnet Long Room Customs House)
Thank you, Valerie Khoo, MC. Good evening, everyone. Welcome to Customs House. I'd like firstly to acknowledge the traditional custodians of our land, and pay my respects to their Elders, both past and present.
Once again we're gathering to celebrate the finalists in our annual City of Sydney Business Awards - and 2011 has proved another bumper year!
Once again, new records have been set for the number of nominations - which totalled 640 - and for the number of votes cast - a whopping 67,000.
That translates as a healthy 23 per cent increase in the number of nominated businesses since last year, and a 62 per cent increase in the number of votes.
Almost half the businesses nominated are first-time nominees, which suggests that despite the gloomy global outlook, Sydney's small business sector is thriving.
And that is really good news. Small businesses play such an important role in enlivening our communities, driving economic growth and providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of people.
I think that phenomenal increase in the number of votes this year reflects community awareness of just how significant local businesses are to community identity, over and above the services they provide.
So I'm delighted to see that groundswell of support which is giving entrepreneurs across the City a fantastic opportunity to raise their profile, expand their customer networks and take their business to the next level.
A new category for Online Business was introduced this year. It includes blogs, email and social networking and drew an impressive 21 nominations with close to 2000 votes.
More than 10 per cent of this year's nominees qualified for the ANZ Fast Starter Award which celebrates fast-growing businesses with an annual turnover of more than $5 million.
The continuing success of the small bar scene was reflected in nominations for a number of new venues, including Grandma's, Stitch, 13B and The Passage, while Sydney's extraordinary bike boom saw 13 bicycle businesses nominated and more than 500 votes received.
All you finalists faced stiff competition. Now you must complete a business questionnaire which will be reviewed by the judging panel and some of you will also receive the rather ominous-sounding "Mystery Shopper Visit".
Once again, these Awards have been generously supported by our fabulous sponsors, and I warmly thank:
- ANZ, our Principal Sponsor for the fourth year,
- Our Major Sponsors for the third year, Energy Australia and Defence Reserves Support,
- Our Sponsors Hayes Knight Accountancy and TAFE NSW Sydney Institute.
- We welcome a new sponsor, MY NET FONE, the Sydney based internet telephone provider. MY NET FONE was a Sydney Business Award winner in 2009, and we're delighted you've joined our sponsors.
- Thank you also to Award sponsor Microsoft,
- Our Media partner, Central Magazine, and
- Our Government Partner, the NSW Department of Industry and Investment.
The winners will be announced at the Awards Dinner, to be held at the Westin Hotel on September 13. I'll look forward to seeing you all there.
Once again, congratulations to every one of you - to all of you who entered - for helping make Sydney the great place that it is and congratulations to the finalists.