WINCHESTER is gearing up to recognise all that is best about business throughout the district.

The 11th Winchester Business Excellence Awards (WBEA) are now open to nominations and around 100 of the district's most prominent businessmen and women converged on the Holiday Inn for a glitzy launch last Wednesday (January 30).

The event is organised by the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, Winchester Business Improvement District and the Hampshire Chronicle to celebrate the diversity and quality of business in Winchester.

Executive director of the BID, Chris Turner, said: “All businesses who are nominated will benefit a great deal from this.”

Principal sponsor is Denplan, which has its headquarters in the city.

Richard Ward, their head of marketing, said local businesses should use the awards as an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

“We're absolutely delighted to support the awards and the key thing for the businesses that win is that they use it to stand out by creating that point of distinction for themselves and their business,” he said.

Maureen Frost, deputy chief executive of the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It's great for the companies that win but it's also a great way to inspire others to get to where the award-winners are.”

Awards include Business of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Rural Business of the Year and the Green Innovation award, which is intended to recognise the importance of green credentials alongside economic success.

The Chronicle editor, Keith Redbourn, said: “As one of the founding partners it's been a real joy to see the awards grow year on year. Despite these grim economic conditions it's been proven that Winchester does better than anywhere else.”

Any company in the local authority district of Winchester with fewer than 200 employees can enter the competition, and the closing date for entries is Friday, March 8.

The winners of this year's Winchester Business Excellence Awards will be announced at a glittering gala evening at Winchester's Guildhall in June.