CARY – Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and a mix of technology upstarts and established players stole the spotlight Thursday night at the North Carolina Technology Association’s annual “21 Awards.”

Perdue, a tireless advocate for the tech sector and possibly the state’s next governor, flashed her characteristic bright smile as she received the “Outstanding Achievement Award.”

“I thought they had talked to my doctor and found out I was terminal,” she said jokingly to the crowd of more than 500 people gathered at the Embassy Suites hotel. (The award cites lifetime achievement as one of its criteria.)

“It ain’t over!”

NCTA, the state’s top business lobbying and advocate organization, cited Perdue for support of various technology and education initiatives. She is a strong backer for a state-wide effort to improve Internet connectivity for schools, for example.

Locked in a pitched battle with State Treasurer Richard Moore for the Democratic nomination, Perdue didn’t deliver a stump speech. She instead hailed NCTA and the companies cited for achievements in 2007. “This isn’t happening in Silicon Valley. It’s happening in North Carolina,” she said.

Moore is no stranger to the tech sector, either, having been involved in programs designed to increase funding for startup companies. But on this night Perdue received the attention. And perhaps looking ahead to next year’s election campaign, she said with a smile: “I thank you for not letting this be my obituary.”

NCTA’s 21 Awards cites individuals and companies in a wide variety of categories in judging handled by financial firm Grant Thornton. The group noted that it received a record number of nominations this year.

Winners ranged from Charlotte startup Yap (a developer of voice to text and other technology) as the Early Stage company of the year to giants SAS and GlaxoSmithKline as the Software and Health Care/Pharmaceutical winners.

Fast-growing Motricity’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Ryan Wuerch accepted the Private Company of the Year honor.

And Epic Games, the Cary-based video game company that developed the smash hit “Gears of War” received the large company “Stage of Development” winner. As the presenter said, Epic has “revolutionized the game industry.”

Two of the Triangle’s best known entrepreneurs, Scot Wingo of ChannelAdvisor and Stephen Wiehe of SciQuest , received the midsize Stage of Development and “Top Growth Company” of the year honors respectively.

By the way, a special tip of The Skinny’s cap hat goes to Dan Davies, the veteran editor of Business Leader magazine, who accepted the Media Company of the year honor – beating out WRAL Local Tech Wire and Triangle Business Journal.

And here’s another “tip,” this one to Francis Queen, the indefatigable founder of Queen Associates, who received the Top Customer Service Company.

The complete list of the winners:

Technology Industry Awards

Software Company of the Year: SAS Institute Inc.
Health Care/Pharmaceutical Company of the Year: GlaxoSmithKline
Electronics Company of the Year: RF Micro Devices
Communications Company of the Year: Overture Networks
Consumer Technology Company of the Year: LED Lighting Fixtures

Stage of Development Awards

Early Stage: Yap, Inc.
Midsize: ChannelAdvisor Corporation
Large: Epic Games

Functional Awards

Top Service Company of the Year: Queen Associates, Inc.
Top Growth Company of the Year: SciQuest, Inc.
Top Venture Capital Invested: InnerPulse
Top Government/Non-Profit Technology: WinstonNet, Inc.

Leadership Awards

Corporate Citizenship: Microsoft Corporation
Media: Business Leader
IT Support Services: Ed Turlington of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP
Corporate Education: SunCom Wireless

Excellence Awards

Private Company of the Year: Motricity
Public Company of the Year: Dell, Inc.

Volunteer of the Year Award

Anne McClelland, senior director of Microsoft Corporation and 2007 Vice Chair of the NCTA Board of Directors.

Public Leadership Awards

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, of Cumberland and Bladen Counties; Representative Pryor Gibson of Anson and Union Counties; Senator David Hoyle of Gaston County, and Representatives Margaret Dickson and Rick Glazier, both representing Cumberland County.

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists from The Skinny.