DEAR Reader,

BUSINESS has never gone through a year like the last one - and I sincerely hope it never has to again.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the economy to a shuddering halt. Virtually overnight businesses across the country had to shut and, with infections on the rise and no vaccine in sight, none of them knew when they would re-open again.

The Government’s initial response to the pandemic was tentative and contradictory. The Prime Minister boasted of shaking hands in hospitals then caught Covid and was seriously ill. Millions of workers were furloughed. Shops, theatres, cinemas, bars and restaurants all closed down.

Bradford’s city centre - in common with other towns and cities - looked for a time like a set from a dystopian film about the end of the world.

But business is nothing if not resilient.

And although the pandemic has taught us important lessons about preparedness and forward-investment, it has also shown us that British businesses are capable of weathering the worst.

People have discovered new ways of working (how many of us knew how to organise meetings in Teams or Zoom before April 2020?) that may have created a new paradigm for future business relationships.

In Bradford we saw businesses stepping up to help when the NHS faced breaking point and distributing aid to those most in need. The business community was never stronger and the new relationships forged during adversity will help firms thrive as we start to look to the future.

The T&A Business Awards have always been about recognising the very best Bradford has to offer.

This year they recognise the contribution businesses have made during what has been our city’s darkest hour during peacetime.

And now, thanks to a swift vaccine rollout, we can start planning for the future.

Nationally, business confidence is the highest it has been for five years. Companies are looking to boost exports and increase investment in a clear sign that they believe better times are just around the corner.

And they are.

New variants remain a concern but it looks as though we have found a way to manage and mitigate the worst of Covid.

Bradford’s businesses can look forward once more to a brighter future.

We salute your resilience and congratulate you on your achievements.

I wish everyone good luck and anticipate a bumper crop of entries this year.

Nigel Burton, group editor Newsquest Media Group (Yorkshire) and editor, of the Telegraph & Argus.

Find out more about the Bradford Means Business Awards 2021 here and nominate a business here.