The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – From its launch 10 years ago, WRAL Tech Wire has been focused on the energy of high-tech and life science entrepreneurship, innovation. We’re taking that commitment a step further today.

We are launching our first awards program with a name that exemplifies the sectors of the economy that are so crucial to North Carolina’s future.

The Full Steam Ahead awards.

Nominations from a panel of judges selected by Tech Wire (entrepreneurs, executives, investors – i.e. people who really know the business) are already coming in, and the winners will be announced on Thursday, May 24, at the Full Steam Brewery in Durham.

Best of the Best

Ten individual winners will be named, all playing off the express train to success theme.

The categories:

• Mogul – Top investor/owner

• Conductor – Board chairman

• Engineer – CEO

• Fireman – COO (operations)

• Brakeman – CFO (spending)

• Signalman – CIO/CTO (technology/information)

• Rookie – Top entrepreneur

• Steward – Mentor/advisor to startups

• Yardmaster – Developer/visionary driving regional development and/or a type of technology

• Inventor – Creator/mastermind

While mogul and inventor don’t refer specifically to railroads,moguls did build them and inventors created all that has run on tracks.

The Top Companies

We also will name five corporate winners:

• The Express – Non-stop on way to success

• The Turnaround – (The railroad turntable, turning engines around to run in opposite direction) – A rebuilt company

• The Golden Spike – A solid, grind-it-out day to day company

• The Subway – A company emerging from stealth mode

• Riding The Third Rail – A company achieving success on a deadly “third rail” where other companies have tried and failed

People’s Choice

Finally, we also will have a “people’s choice” winner – someone nominated and selected by Tech Wire readers.

So circle the date on your calendar. Specifics about registration will be announced shortly.

Tech Wire is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a party honoring the best and the brightest the tech sector has to offer.

You will want to be there.