IN what has been a tumultuous year, business owners and industry stakeholders were given the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on their achievements at the Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) Great Southern Business Awards earlier this month.
ACCI chief executive officer Benita Cattalini said business owners deserved recognition this year more than any other.
"As soon as COVID hit and companies had to work from home a lot of our IT companies were reporting that things were going really, really well," Ms Cattalini said.
"Once people started working from home they began to focus on completing home improvements, so a lot of those businesses started to get busy too.
"But some businesses just got annihilated overnight - they either had to shut down or pivot and adapt in order to survive."
Businesses were only eligible to apply for the awards, presented at the Albany Entertainment Centre, if they were nominated by their peers.
"It's a great way to go about it because often people would never think of putting themselves up for an award without a prompt and the fact the businesses are nominated by their peers also adds to the credibility of the awards," Ms Cattalini said.
"It built more comfort for people to apply which translated to us getting more applicants this year as well."
Due to an overwhelming response of 356 nominees and 49 finalists, the number of award judges had to be doubled.
People who had long-term business success of their own, including previous award winners, made up the cohort of judges.
Reliant on industries such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries, Ms Cattalini said the Great Southern region was fortunate in that tourism wasn't a major component of their local economy.
"The Great Southern is in a really interesting spot at the moment," Ms Cattalini said.
"I can feel a big shift happening in terms of the private investment that is coming in through the Leeuwin Coast, Akoya and Harvest Road investment.
"That sort of private investment builds confidence and other businesses step up.
"When COVID happened we encouraged locals to look after the region and I think people have and we are really reaping the benefits of that."
- Business Start Up and/or Innovation: Market Grill
- Home Based Business: Waxiwraps
- Business with 0-4 Employees: Keston Economics
- Business with 5-10 Employees: Bay Merchants
- Business with 11 Plus Employees: Terry White Chemmart Chester Pass
- Albany Community Service: Worklink
- WA People's Choice Award: Xesiv Digital
- Environment and Sustainability Business: The Alkaline Café
- Tourism Business: Handasyde Strawberries
- Indigenous Business: Kiya Watt
- Agri-food and Beverage Value Add: Porongurup Pure
- Indigenous Employer of the Year: Impact Services
- Employee of the Year: Maria Reynolds from Head to Tail Pets
- Young Business Person of the Year: Kiya Watt from Kiya Watt
- Business Leader of the Year: Mel Homewood from The Alkaline Café
- Business of the Year: Handasyde Strawberries