THE Westmorland Gazette Business and Tourism Awards proved once again that enterprise is alive and kicking in Cumbria, north Lancashire and the Dales.

All 11 award categories were keenly contested by energetic and innovative entrepreneurs who have shown commendable determination to beat the recession into submission.

And the most competitive category – New Business of the Year – was testament to how many enterprises have been formed in the past three years, despite the UK’s economic difficulties.

This new category could just as easily have been called the Business Bravery Award because it reflects and rewards the courage it takes to launch a company in such difficult times.

Although government help for start-ups is available – more than 50 South Lakeland enterprises were launched with National Enterprise Allowance Support, for example – fledgling entrepreneurs often find themselves battling away on their own.

So for the three enterprises shortlisted in the new business category, Friday’s awards ceremony at the Castle Green Hotel presented an opportunity to be recognised and applauded, along with more established firms.

The awards also celebrated the diversity of local enterprise. Although the Lake District is dominated by tourism and hospitality businesses, there are a host of innovative companies involved in other sectors such as retailing, manufacturing and training.

These continue to beaver away year-in, year-out – not just hoping to survive but to thrive.

Evidence that the area’s economy is gaining fresh momentum can be found in the many positive business stories featured in these pages each week.

Lakeland’s major expansion plans for its distribution centre in Kendal and Gilbert Gilkes and Gordon’s to redevelop its Canal Head factory are prime examples.

Also, the Japan Forum’s trip to the Far East to drum up more business for the Lake District shows how important it is to be outward looking.

We look forward to celebrating the fruits of such enterprising efforts at future awards ceremonies.