THIS area is a great place to do business and in today's awards preview we look at the category which honours the companies that put something back into the area.

The Outstanding Contribution to the South Coast Region Award is sponsored by one of Southampton's longest established employer's, British American Tobacco.

This category recognises businesses and organisations that support and grow the region’s economy through skills development, community initiatives, local supply chains and employment opportunities. They are ambassadors for the region and champion the South Coast as a great place to do business.

BAT's operation in Southampton plays a crucial role in our global business and now employs more than 1,200 people. BAT's site in Millbrook is now home to three global strategic functions; R&D carrying out world-leading research into the next generation of tobacco and nicotine products, Leaf Operations, which source and manage the tobacco leaf for the whole business and and Supply Network Operations who manage our entire global supply chain.

"The company's 104-year history with the city of Southampton demonstrates our long-term commitment to the region making us very proud to sponsor the award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to the South Coast Region’ at the 2018 South Coast Business Awards," said Alex Osborne, senior communications manager, British American Tobacco.

“As a long-term investor in the region, we are keen to recognise businesses or organisations that can demonstrate their contribution to the South Coast area. It’s not just about employment opportunities, skills development and business expansion, it’s the whole package right through to local supply chains, supporting the local community and ultimately showcasing this area as a great place to do business.” Alex Osborne, Senior Communications Manager, British American Tobacco.

The judges will be looking for a business or organisation that can show how they:

Last year's winners were Silver Lining Convergence, based in Whitleley, who offer their customers business IT and telecommunications, data and mobile solutions.

The judges were impressed by the range of testimonials from customers, charities and apprentices that they had helped and the firm's commitment to the region and charitable causes through fundraising, specialist educational programmes and donated services.

Silver Lining also won the award in 2016.

Marketing manager Aisha Hawkes