Gordon Dewar wins Director of Year award

The man who has overseen the dramatic and continuing rise of Edinburgh Airport has beaten the city’s tram boss to be named the Capital’s business leader of the year.

Wednesday, 4th March 2015, 9:25 am
Edinburgh Airport's Gordon Dewar receives his award from Kevin Havelock. Picture: contributed

Gordon Dewar was presented with the Director of the Year award at the Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious annual business awards in a glittering ceremony at the Sheraton Grand.

The airport chief executive picked up the prize ahead of Tom Norris, the director and general manager of Edinburgh Trams, who had been shortlisted after helping oversee the successful launch of tram services.

The judges said they had been were looking for a director who had “demonstrated excellent leadership skills” and had been “inspirational” to their colleagues.

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Speaking after his victory Mr Dewar said the growth of the airport was “a huge team effort”.

He added: “We don’t just sell the airport, we sell Edinburgh to the airlines of the world. When representatives of those airlines come from around the world to visit us, they see the people and the passion the city has to offer and that makes it a really easy sell.”

The Capital’s first city-centre marketing campaign also won a coveted award. Over the past 12 months, the This Is Edinburgh campaign has helped woo back shoppers back to the centre after the disruption caused by the tram works by highlighting the huge range of quality shops, eating and drinking places and special attractions and events on offer.

Marketing Edinburgh took the top prize in the Creative Marketing category, beating competition from First Scotland East, Quartermile and Edinburgh Social Enterprise ­

Supported by the city council and Essential Edinburgh, the campaign has included television advertising, discount offers, partnerships, including with the Evening News, and special events.

Managing director John Donnelly said the award had given the campaign “the most amazing platform to build on”.

He added: “We’re absolutely thrilled ‘This Is Edinburgh’ has been recognised. This award is wonderful but what’s really been rewarding is the positive feedback we’ve had from businesses and residents who say it’s made a tangible difference to how they feel about the city centre.”

Frances Maurer, whose smile and laugh were said to be known by business people across the Capital, won the Lifetime Achievement Award following her success as sales manager at The Balmoral Hotel. She praised the Edinburgh Chamber for providing a “great platform” for businesses, adding: “I am delighted to have the chance to share such a special award with so many friends and clients.”

The sparkling event at Sheraton was the chamber’s fourth annual awards night and the biggest yet, attended by more than 300 guests.

David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said it was becoming difficult to choose a winner from so many quality entries.

He said: “Once again the experience, talent and resource of Edinburgh have shone through on a great night for our Capital city.

“The judging process gets harder year on year.”

The audience of business leaders heard an inspirational talk from David Duke, founder and chief executive of Street Soccer Scotland, who told of his journey from homelessness, living on the streets of Glasgow, to running a major enterprise helping people find new purpose in their life through football. Former primary school teacher and motivational speaker Gavin Oattes, MD at Tree of Knowledge, told about the inspiration business people can draw from the enthusiasm of children.

Grassmarket-based musical instrument store Red Dog Music won the award for best business in the 11-50 staff category after it tripled in size and opened an outlet in London.

MD Alex Marten said the firm “worked hard to grow ethically” and “not lose touch” with what made it successful.

“This award is a huge honour for us and a testament to the hard work, positive attitude, and determination of all the staff,” he added.

Craig McKenna, of crowd-funding firm Crowdcube, said the company was “delighted” to see its work in Scotland recognised in the Innovation category.

The global humanitarian and environmental work carried out by Central Taxis also saw it honoured.

Mags Kearns-Griffin, of Central Taxis, which won in the Sustainability ­category, said the company was aware of its environmental responsibilities.

She said: “We were the first taxi company in Scotland to become carbon neutral. We have continued to build on this and sponsor a number of overseas projects, including the planting of new forests in Uganda and helping prevent children from developing lung issues in Guatemala.”

The multiligual call centre operator Sykes Global chose Edinburgh for its north European base because of the wealth of foreigners in the city, despite the higher labour costs.

Between them, the 650 employees speak 17 languages, handling customer support for 21 countries throughout Europe, including Russia, Spain and Turkey.

Claire Moir, senior account manager at Sykes Global, described its International Trade award as “special”.

She said: “We have won several awards over the past few years but what makes this one special is that it is for the work we have been doing right here in Edinburgh.”


Marketing Edinburgh’s success in the awards demonstrates a significant turnaround under the new leadership of chief executive John Donnelly and chairman Gordon Robertson.

Less than three years ago the fledgling company became headline news after it was forced to abandon a controversial campaign aimed at selling Edinburgh to the world under the slogan “Incredinburgh”.

While some thought the slogan – and other such as “WinterinEdinburgh” – were innovative, the city council failed to buy into the idea. Chief executive Lucy Bird eventually left as part of the fall-out.

Marketing Edinburgh unveiled the “This Is Edinburgh” campaign initially to promote the city centre. However, in recent months it has been suggested that the campaign could be extended to become a citywide brand for the Capital.

“This is Edinburgh” has been credited with helping to woo shoppers back to the city centre after the recession and the widespread disruption caused by the long-running tramworks.