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Business owners already have been urging their customers to cast ballots in The Times Best of the Region contest, which has opened for voting this year.

"It’s a fixture of the Region," Times Publisher Chris White said. "Everywhere you turn is the familiar logo of The Times Best of the Region — in newspaper ads, on billboards and especially walking into your favorite establishments."

The public can vote on their favorite businesses in a wide array of categories, including beauty and wellness, education and instruction, entertainment, food and dining, health care, living, services and shopping.

The winners get recognition, bragging rights and the opportunity to post the iconic Best of the Region signs seen in some of the finest storefronts across Northwest Indiana.

"It’s become the recognized symbol of the Region’s best and most trusted businesses — those that have consistently proven themselves for providing the best experiences and value to loyal customers," White said. "The reason for this is simple. Rather than relying on the opinions of a few judges or voters, Best of the Region awards are determined by the people of Northwest Indiana through The Times' annual balloting process."

Region residents vote for the Best Gym/Health Club, the Best Hair Salon, the Best College/University, the Best Microbrewery, the Best Local Festival, the Best Hamburger, the Best Pizza, the Best Mexican Food, the Best Pharmacy, the Best Place to Live, the Best Bank, the Best Car Wash, the Best Law Office, the Best Photography Studio, the Best Roofer and many more bests.

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The popular vote decides who stands atop the pack.

"It’s never easy winning a category in Best of the Region, but it’s great recognition and visibility every year," White said. "Voting for this year’s selection process kicks off Sunday (today), and we hope to set new records."

The public gets a chance to support their favorite businesses, who in turn get a Good Housekeeping-like Seal of Approval.

"Few things are more coveted for local business owners than the annual Best of the Region star," Times General Manager Joe Battistoni said. "It’s so easy for businesses to be given unsatisfactory reviews in the works of social media and general review sites, this is a chance for our readers to show their support in a positive way for their favorite local businesses. It’s always an exciting time for the Region and all of us at The Times as we plan on another record-breaking year with voting."

Voting runs through Sunday, March 31. 

For more information, visit nwi.com/bestof or grab a copy of Sunday's Times.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.