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The launch last night of the Westpac Otago Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards was a chance to shake off some of the negative images about the region, chamber president Ali Copeman said.
The awards, which are held every two years, were a chance for the region to celebrate its successes.
''We all know the Otago has suffered a few hits and some perceptions are of us as a backwater. Nothing is further from the truth.
''This is our chance to say 'this is what's really happening down here','' she said.
The 2014 O-Biz awards were launched with the distribution of nomination and entry forms. Closing date for nominations is August 14. The awards dinner will be held on November 7.
Mrs Copeman said Otago people did not ''shout out'' enough about their successes but she hoped the awards would attract entries from owner-operators through to people working internationally.
Westpac was the major sponsor, but the variety of other sponsors showed the community's support for the awards.
In 2012, there were 800 nominations which were reduced to 170 official entries, she said.
''Each time we see operators we have not previously heard of. We have a great depth and range of businesses here in the South.''
It was always exciting when somebody new came along with an innovative business. Sometimes, those people did not have a presence in Dunedin - other than living and working in the city - because they sold 100% of their goods or services internationally, Mrs Copeman said.
The emerging business award was significant, because a business had to have been operating for three years to qualify, meaning it had survived the initial set-up costs and had established itself.
Companies which regularly entered the awards used it as a self-audit to ensure they had stuck to their business plan in the previous two years, she said.