Businessman Geoff Ford has been hailed as a ‘true ambassador for the region.’
Coun Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “We are very saddened to learn of the death of Geoff, who was a pivotal and highly respected figure.
“Geoff founded the South Tyneside Manufacturing Forum and was passionate about growing the manufacturing sector in the borough.
“The Ford group has been in South Shields for over a century and Geoff remained true to his roots, committed to giving something back to the community where he was born by chairing various committees.”
“Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time.”
Judith Doyle, principal and CEO at Gateshead College, said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of Geoff’s passing. He was an inspiration to us all.
“He had a genuine passion for the region, for engineering, for the business he ran and the people working for him.
“He had a particular interest in giving back to his local community and we had the great pleasure of working with him to build the Ford Engineering Academy.
“As a true ambassador for the region, Geoff’s aim for the academy wasn’t simply to find the next recruits for his own business but to address a wider skills gap and inspire more young people to consider a future in engineering, a sector he cared deeply about.
“I was very proud and to call him a friend of Gateshead College and I know I will be among many who will miss him.
“My thoughts and very best wishes go out to his family, friends and colleagues.”