And the winners of the 2017 Westpac Rotorua Business Excellence Awards are?

As I write this, there are many excited and nervous people who are waiting to hear about the outcome of their entries.

All will be revealed tonight at a prestigious gala event hosting 600 people, where we will celebrate business success.

And a celebration it will be! I was bemused recently when I was talking to some people who thought it was a networking event.

Don't get me wrong it is a networking event, but it is so much more than that - it is a celebration of our city.

It is a celebration of all the visionary leaders from SMEs to larger businesses, profit and not-for-profit organisations, who work incredibly hard to bring economic wealth to this region; it is a celebration of all the amazing people who work in these organisations creating social and cultural vibrancy; and it showcases the talents of our youth who are entrepreneurial, techno savvy, confident and are our next generation of leaders.

This year we are celebrating in style.

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We are acknowledging our city's vision to be the first bilingual city in NZ, Aotearoa. And if we consider Rotorua is the home of tourism dating back to the early 1800s when Māori guided international dignitaries through the Pink and White Terraces and Whakarewarewa, then the bilingual vision is appropriate.

To this day, tourism is the largest economic driver and our economy is benefiting, highlighted in the provisional estimate of GDP growth of 3 per cent over June 2017 year, compared to 2.8 per cent growth nationally.

But what is remarkable is that tourism is only one of the many industries driving our economy, and a range of these businesses will be celebrating their successes and achievements tonight.

The journey for all the finalists has been six months in the making.

I want to congratulate each, and every one of them for embarking on this journey. It is not an easy feat by any means; and nor should it be.

This is a celebration of excellence and we all know to be the best of the best, you must work hard, akin to any world-class athlete. They train hard, they have self-doubts, but they have a vision, they have a superb team around them, they are driven, they have tenacity and strength, they are leaders.

Every person involved in the finalists' categories tonight, stand proud, enjoy and celebrate the evening - you deserve it.

Allison Lawton is the chief executive for the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce.