Tributes have been paid following the death of one of South Tyneside’s leading industrialists.
Geoff Ford, chairman of the Ford Engineering Group, passed away on Monday night after a short illness.
Yesterday, the businesses, in Tyne Dock, South Shields, was inundated with cards, flowers and messages of sympathy for the family of the highly respected businessman from people he’d helped in various shapes and forms over the years.
The 75-year-old, who lived in Durham with wife Marilyn, had been a part of the family business for 44 years.
The business specialises in the machining and pressing of components and assemblies for the aerospace, automotive and related high-technology industries.
Mr Ford joined the company in 1974 and, the following year, became the third generation of his family to take over the day-to-day running of it.
The business has grown steadily over the years - first entering the aerospace industry in 1982. Aerospace now accounts for 50% of Ford’s £11 million turnover.
Mr Ford established a reputation as someone who wanted to put something back into the community where he was born and was well known for his work in encouraging and helping young people to forge a career in engineering.
This saw him form the Ford Engineering Academy - a training initiative for 16 to 24-year-olds, which launched in 2013, involving South Tyneside and Gateshead College.
He has also been the chairman of the South Tyneside Enterprise Partnership, and the South Tyneside Committee of the North East Chamber of Commerce, and vice-chair of the Local Strategic Partnership.
In 2007, he founded the South Tyneside Manufacturing Forum - now the Advanced Manufacturing Forum - because of his passion to grow the manufacturing sector in the borough.
He was also chair of South Tyneside Workplace Health Alliance promoting both mental and physical health amongst South Tyneside workforces.
He was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2007 and, in 2008, he was made an MBE.
Mr Ford was a father to son’s Dan, 36, and Chris, 33, who became managing director of the business.
He was a grandfather to Dan’s children Arwen, five, and Will, two.
His son Dan, a university lecturer, said: “He has been a cornerstone of South Tyneside for a long time and in 2010 celebrated the centenary of the business.
“During that time he not only shepherded the company through some difficult times, but oversaw its growth and expansion.”
Mr Ford’s work with people in South Tyneside was something his family say he was extremely passionate about and will form a major part of his legacy.
Dan added:: “He was a gentleman and incredibly warm person who had a great sense of humour. The Queens Award for Enterprise Promotion was something that he was proud of because it was a personal achievement in recognition of his work with North East business and the community.
“More than that, dad took great thought and care over his responsibility as an employer, and in Ford’s relationship with the Shields community.”
Mr Ford’s funeral will be held at South Shields Crematorium on Monday, December 17, at 11.15am.
The family would like contributions to be made to the British Heart Foundation instead of flowers.