The theme was “Glitz & Glamour”, and while the business community certainly brought their A-game to the 2023 IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards, it was green energy that ultimately stole the show.
More than 740 people flocked to WIN Entertainment Centre on Friday (13 October) to celebrate the incredible efforts and achievements of local businesses.
Accolades were showered on Wollongong-based company Hysata, which claimed the Excellence in Tech and Excellence in Innovation awards before also taking out top gong – Business of the Year.
Hysata is set to accelerate the world’s shift away from fossil fuels by delivering the world’s lowest-cost green hydrogen thanks to its revolutionary high-efficiency electrolyser.
In an enormous warehouse space in the iconic location directly opposite Port Kembla’s MM Beach, the team of 60 is tipped to double in size within the year and will soon bring online a high-tech manufacturing line, allowing it to commercially scale its revolutionary product.
Hysata CEO Paul Barrett said the Illawarra was the ideal location for the operation.
“We have really strong roots in the Illawarra. The technology that formed the nucleus of this company years ago was born at the lab benches of the University of Wollongong and many of the staff went to the University,” he said.
“We’re also in a fantastic geographic location. Not only does it have easy access to Sydney, but it’s a truly beautiful part of the world … it’s a magnet for talent.”
Mr Barrett said the team was surprised and humbled by its multiple wins, particularly the final one.
“This was our first time entering the Illawarra Business Awards and I didn’t even know there was a Business of the Year Award,” he said.
“There was such a great range of companies present, from tech companies to older businesses, big brands around tourism and social enterprises. To be among that calibre of finalists and win three awards was very humbling.”
The remarkable hat-trick was just one highlight of the night, as business after business took to the stage to showcase the region’s remarkable growth across a diverse spectrum of industries.
In a first for the Illawarra Business Awards, the company crowned Business of the Year was not entirely alone on the throne. Judges said there was a hair’s breadth between Hysata and Greenacres Disability Services, which was awarded the first-ever “Highly Commended” in the category.
The established business with a mission to enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions was also highly commended in the Outstanding Business Leader category and won the hotly contested Outstanding Community Organisation award.
Further showcasing the region’s advancements in the environmental sector, Green Gravity – a company that uses disused mines to store renewable energy – was recognised in the Outstanding Start-up category.
The awards also celebrated outstanding individuals within the Illawarra business community, including Nowra Community Food Store’s Jemma Tribe (Outstanding Business Leader for 2023), The Cram Foundation’s Christine Cross (2023 Outstanding Employee) and Curran Plumbing and Electrical’s Jane Curran (Outstanding Young Business Leader).
Over her years working for the family business, the young COO actively sought to diversify its staff base, implementing strategies that resulted in a 30 per cent increase in its gender and cultural diversity, including introducing a female apprentice plumber.
Ms Curran said she had seen the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace play out at her family’s company.
“A lot of studies have shown that having diversity in the workplace really does improve productivity and ultimately, the profitability and success of the company. Inclusive workplaces are happier workplaces, and that’s certainly been the case at Curran,” she said.
Ms Curran pointed out that all finalists in her category were women, and said it was a privilege to be among them, let alone to win.
“Given the calibre of the finalists, I was surprised,” she said. “It’s fantastic to be recognised as a woman in trade, and I am honoured by this award.”
Business Illawarra executive director Adam Zarth said the region was blessed with a “talented pool of individuals driving the fortunes of our local economy forward”.
“More than ever before, our region’s prospects across an expanding range of sectors – and in small and medium enterprise particularly – are thriving, and tonight’s winners are a showcase of the many businesses grasping those opportunities,” he said.
The winners of the 2023 IMB Bank Illawarra Business Awards listed below will proceed to the state awards in November.
- Excellence in Customer Service
- Winner: Highlands Drivesafe
- Excellence in Tech
- Winner: Hysata
- Highly Commended: Sicona Battery Technologies
- Excellence in Tourism & Hospitality
- Winner: Jamberoo Action Park
- Highly Commended: Cupitt’s Estate
- Excellence in Workplace Culture
- Winner: IPAR Rehabilitation
- Excellence in Innovation
- Winner: Hysata
- Excellence in Sustainability
- Winner: The Illawarra Hotel
- Excellence in International Business
- Winner: Sicona Battery Technologies
- Outstanding Employee
- Winner: Christine Cross, The Cram Foundation
- Outstanding Young Business Leader
- Winner: Jane Curran, Curran Plumbing and Electrical
- Highly Commended: Rachelle Crilly, IPAR Rehabilitation
- Outstanding Business Leader Sponsored
- Winner: Jemma Tribe, Nowra Community Food Store
- Highly Commended: Amy Hall, Banksia Support Services
- Highly Commended: Chris Christodoulou, Greenacres Disability Services
- Outstanding Community Organisation
- Winner: Greenacres Disability Services
- Outstanding Start-up
- Winner: Green Gravity
- Excellence in Micro Business
- Winner: Aquilla Fishing Charters
- Excellence in Small Business
- Winner: Sprout Scientific
- Excellence in Large Business
- Winner: Symbio Wildlife Park
- Highly Commended: RMB Lawyers
- 2023 IMB Bank Business of the Year
- Winner: Hysata
- Highly Commended: Greenacres Disability Services