AN EXPANDING designer of food-manufacturing equipment has been crowned the Huntingdonshire Business of the Year 2010 at the Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Awards.

AN EXPANDING designer of food-manufacturing equipment has been crowned the Huntingdonshire Business of the Year 2010 at the Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Awards.

At a black-tie awards ceremony on Friday evening, DC Norris and Company of Great Gransden beat competition from the best of the rest of Huntingdonshire's businesses to win the prestigious title.

The family-owned company first picked up the Business Development Award, sponsored by The Hunts Post's parent company Archant, with HeatingSave Ltd, the Nutty Tarts Gifts and Goodies Ltd and Le Mark Group also shortlisted.

From the 10 category winners, DCN was then selected by the judges as the overall winner of Business of the Year.

DC Norris designs, builds and installs machinery for convenience food production, and recently completed a project for a factory in Russia that was opened by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Already a world-leader in its field, DCN is introducing the concept of convenience food to the country, and already has plans for further factories.

Managing director David Norris said: “I absolutely cannot believe that we've been named the overall winner.

“We've spent all our lives developing new products to put us at the forefront of our industry, so to get the recognition is wonderful.

Mr Norris added: “I guarantee that everybody in the room at the Business Awards ceremony will at some stage have eaten a meal produced by our machinery.

“But we don't normally enter awards events like these. We just do what we do.”

A family business now in its third generation, DCN started in 1970 with five people who designed and manufactured machines to produce screw conveyors.

Progressing from industrial can-openers to machinery capable of producing 40,000 meals a day, the company now employs more than 90 staff.

It has increased its export sales to 70 per cent over the past year, and is eyeing up new markets abroad for its range of stand-alone cooking equipment and fully-automated processing lines.

As well as expansion in Russia, DCN has been part of Tesco's US expansion, and has plans for convenience food factories in Saudi Arabia, Norway and Australia.

The judges said: “DCN have broken new ground, bringing the concept of convenience foods to Russia.

“Their equipment will produce 40,000 meals a day to supply schools and the Russian armed forces.

“Two hundred identical factories are to be opened over the next few years in every city in Russia, and DCN are now busy planning for sites in Moscow and Sochi.”

The Huntingdon Marriott was another double winner on the night, taking the awards for Environment and Community and Training and Development.

In the first category, sponsored by Anglian Water, the hotel won the award ahead of 2009 winner Coffee Unlimited, Wood Green Animal Shelters, and Bierce Technical Services.

The judges said: “The Marriott Hotel in Huntingdon impressed with the wide range of its energy and resource-saving initiatives.

“For example, the hotel now recycles 85 per cent of its waste, compared to 35 per cent in 2009.

“The Marriott also supports the community: in 2009 it hosted 22 charitable events, all completely free of charge to the charities.”

Assem Sweidan, general manager at the Huntingdon Marriott, said the hotel had taken huge steps forward in the past year.

“Our engineers have been looking at ways to reduce energy use and refuse waste wherever possible, and have really made a big effort in the past year. We're all ecstatic to have won.”

Also with the Huntingdon Marriott on the shortlist for the Training and Development Award, sponsored by Huntingdonshire Regional College, were The Nail Retreat and Saks Hair and Beauty.

The Huntingdon Marriott retained the award it won last year, with judges praising the hotel's commitment to the development of its staff.

They added: “Part of a sophisticated global business that is almost entirely dependent on people to deliver its services, it operates well-developed policies and procedures that help individuals realise their maximum potential.

“The management processes are people-centric and applied equally to all levels of the organisation.”

Mr Sweidan said: “Winning the award again just dots the i's and crosses the t's on the work we do. We take great interest in making sure our staff achieve everything they can.”

The winner of the Small Business of the Year Award was BrightVisions Ltd of St Neots.

Also nominated for the award, which was sponsored by the Federation of Small Businesses, were Littlepeople Childcare, The Nutty Tarts Gifts and Goodies, and Beacon Financial Ltd.

The judges praised BrightVisions for being “an unusually ethical and principled business that is nevertheless prepared to make tough decisions in the interests of its customers and employees.”

They added: “It has achieved 15 per cent year-on-year growth throughout the recession and now appears well placed to continue to move forward.

“Putting the long-term interest of customers first has definitely paid off in terms of customer loyalty and the relative ease with which new customers have been obtained.”

BrightVisions chairman Philip Mashinchi said: “This is fantastic for us. It's a team effort that's won us this award – we work as a unit.

“We always try to focus on our staff and our customers – because after all, our customers are our sales force.

“We won the award three years ago, and we are delighted to have done it again.”

Piggotts the Jewellers in St Ives was Retailer of the Year, sponsored by DH Barford + Co, after beating off competition from the Smiling Grape Company, Plumb-It and Elouise Lingerie.

The judges said: A superb family-owned jewellery shop which will be celebrating 30 years in St Ives in 2011.

“The shop has a highly-motivated and enthusiastic team of staff who demonstrated excellent product knowledge and are encouraged to develop specialist areas such as watches or specialised lines of jewellery.

“All staff are well-presented and offer first-class customer service. Piggotts is a fantastic example of local shopping at its best. A well-deserved winner.”

Piggotts sales manager Sarah Edwards said: “We are so shocked to have won. The competition was so strong – I wouldn't have wanted to judge the category.

“It's the first time we have entered, and to have won is something very special for us all.”

The Business Person of the Year Award went to Tony Larkins of Beacon Financial Ltd in Kimbolton.

Sponsored by Leeds Day solicitors, the award shortlist also included Philip Mashinchi of BrightVisions, and Anthony McCaffrey of Plumb-It.

The judges said of Mr Larkins: “Tony has successfully led his team through a series of significant changes when financial services businesses were already under pressure.

“His leadership and management skills have resulted in impressive business growth, an improved range of services to clients and the company as a whole being in a very healthy position.”

Mr Larkins said: “It's unbelievable to have won the award. We've made quite a few changes to the company this year, in terms of management and our staff qualifications.

“Across the board we have been raising our standards, and we have done so much to try to improve what we offer.”

The award for Employer of the Year, sponsored by the Luminus Group, went to Bierce Technical Services, the property testing and compliance company that was the big winner last year, taking the award for Small Business of the Year and the overall Business of the Year title.

Bierce was chosen as the winner from a shortlist including BrightVisions Ltd, The Huntingdon Marriott and The Nail Retreat.

The judges praised Bierce for the family atmosphere that its 23-strong staff enjoyed, and the support the company offered to employees.

Managing director Stephen Birch said the firm was delighted to have picked up the award, after having missed out on it last year.

He said: “We were up for two awards, but this is one we really wanted. As a small business we depend heavily on our staff, who are always flexible and willing to roll their sleeves up and take on every challenge. We are very grateful.”

The Innovation Award, sponsored by the Greater Cambridge Partnership, went to Tensor Plc, up against Westland Horticulture and Logic Melon.

Tensor, manufacturers of access control equipment using smart card or fingerprint biometric technology, was praised highly by the judges.

They said: “Tensor impressed the judges by the way in which it has developed a unique modular product that should appeal to any organisation in which security of data or premises is paramount.

“Tensor's system solves the problem that arises when staff need to remember more than one password to enter buildings and computer systems especially when passwords change from week to week.”

Nigel Smith, chairman of Tensor, said: “We are really delighted, and this award is very much a testament to the hard work and dedication of the scientists and engineering staff who make Tensor Plc a world-class company.

“We are a very innovative company, and spend a significant amount of our profits on developing new technologies.”