Six hundred and forty Sydney businesses have been nominated with a total of 67,000 votes for the 2011 City of Sydney Business Awards.

This represents a 23 per cent increase in the number of nominated businesses from 2010, and a 62 per cent increase in the number of votes.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said that close to half the businesses nominated this time around are first-time nominees – suggesting that despite the gloomy global financial outlook, Sydney’s small business sector is thriving.

“Small businesses play a crucial role in enlivening our communities, driving economic growth and providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of people,” she said.

The most popular category in the competition was Professional and Business Services, with 61 nominations and more than 31,000 votes.

This was closely followed by Specialty Wholesale and Retail with 58 nominations and 3600 votes. These nominated stores included Kings Comics, The Bookshop Darlinghurst and Celebrity Vogue Photography.

A new Online Business category was announced this year, recognising organisations where all marketing and sales are done via the Internet, including blogs, email and social networking.

“The judges will have their work cut out for them, with so many finalists across 22 categories. I look forward to celebrating the achievements of each and every one of Sydney’s best small businesses at the awards night in September,” Moore said.

The eight businesses with the most votes in each category will be recognised at a finalist reception at Customs House on Wednesday, 3 August.