(This column was adapted from opening remarks at the fifth-annual Best Places to Work in the North Bay awards reception last Thursday attended by nearly 400 people. A special section on the winners is in today’s Business Journal.)

Good evening to you, the 2010 Best Places to Work in the North Bay.

This is the time for celebration, for sure. But the Best Places to Work award is not about tonight. It is much more than that.

Being a great place to work is a way of thinking. It is something that lasts day in, day out, month to month and year to year. It resides deeply in, and reinforces, the work and culture of your companies and organizations.

Many of you may be wondering how you got here tonight.               If there is one reason, it is because your employees chose you.

There is no way to accidentally arrive here. This is a six-month-long process beginning with nominations in March. A mandatory anonymous employee online survey in June follows – we had 4,800 people take the survey this year.

Responses to the survey – including employee comments – are reviewed in detail and scores are calculated in response to five concept categories, “credibility,” “fairness,” “respect,” “pride” and “camaraderie.” We also ask what makes your company great, how it could improve and how you are navigating this economy. We even track the number of managers versus non-managers who take the survey.

The winning organizations come from a broad range of enterprises: banks, accounting firms, senior services, technology companies, food products, real estate, law, landscape management and others.

Two things were clear this year from the employee surveys and company applications. The great places to work like yours are working very hard to cement your positions in the marketplace. And secondly, you know your employees are central to that goal.

And that last point is critical because virtually all of you in this room have already looked down the road and are positioning yourselves for when the economy improves.

In the meantime, retaining, inspiring and communicating clearly with your employees – “re-recruiting” them, if you will – is key to having the right people in the right places both today and when the inevitable better times arrive.

Once again, congratulations.

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Brad Bollinger is Business Journal editor in chief and associate publisher. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or bbollinger@busjrnl.com.