A record year for the Oxfordshire Business Awards has produced a crop of entries of the highest calibre, judges have revealed.

After weeks of deliberation involving visits from sponsors to firms the length and breadth of the county, followed by a mammoth five-hour judging meeting, the final shortlist can be revealed by the Oxford Mail.

A total of 42 companies and individuals have made the final three in 14 categories, with the winners being named at a ceremony next month.

One firm will go on to be named the Oxfordshire Business of the Year 2012, the 17th year the awards have been going.

Awards chairman Paul Lowe said: “This has been the most competitive year I can remember and the longest judging meeting in the competition’s history.

“But the result is entries of fantastic quality.

“And it is refreshing to see a lot of new names on the list which reflects the level of innovation in the county.

“Some of Oxfordshire’s largest and brightest companies are featured along with the small, growing businesses that dominate the business landscape.”

Mr Lowe added: “If the businesses we have seen are any reflection of the local economy, then Oxfordshire is in great shape.”

There were more than 260 entries in this year’s competition, more than ever before.

The figure has been swelled by shortlisted firms from the West Oxfordshire and Cherwell Business Awards.

Aspire Oxfordshire made the shortlist in the Charity and Community category, sponsored by the Oxford Mail’s sister paper The Oxford Times, along with Banbury homeless charity BYHP and mobile playgroup, the Banbury and District Community Bus Project.

Aspire which is based in Osney Lane, Oxford, helps homeless people and those with a history of addiction back into the workplace.

Chief executive Jenny Fox, said: “To be shortlisted is wonderful. This will be a massive motivation for everyone.

“It is about time we really promoted what we do and this will help us establish ourselves in the community and get local residents behind us.”

Brendon Cross, managing director of Witney-based STL Communications, was shortlisted in the Oxfordshire Business Person of the Year.

He said: “I’m delighted, especially given the high level of competition.

“STL has had an excellent year and we are looking forward to the awards night.”

Other well-known names on the list include the Cotswold Wildlife Park, near Burford, shortlisted in the Four Pillars Cultural Events and Tourism category, Witney-based components manufacturer Data Plastics in the Retrader.

org.uk Sustainability and Natwest Large Business shortlists and Abingdon’s multi-national domestic appliance manufacturer Miele in the Hays Customer Care category.

The winners will be revealed at the ceremony at the Four Pillars Hotel, Sandford-on-Thames, on June 15 along with the overall Allmakes 4X4 Business of the Year.

About 500 people are expected to attend the sell-out event which is the highlight of the county’s business calendar.