Remembering Our Chairman, Geoff Ford MBE

Published: 3rd December 2018

Mr Ford was the third generation of his family to run South Tyneside family business Ford Components, having joined the business in 1974, and under his leadership the company entered the aerospace industry for the first time in 1982.

His sons Dan and Chris said: “Following the death of Geoff Ford (75), Ford Engineering Group has been inundated at its Tyne Dock site by many cards, flowers and memories of the people he’s helped in various shapes and forms over the years.

“Our dad Geoff Ford took over the reins of the Tyne Dock based family business in 1974 and through careful management, new ideas and graft, grew its turnover from £330,000 to £11m.

“Becoming chairman in 1985 following the death of his father Robert (always known as Mr Robert on the factory floor), he’s shepherded the company through some difficult times, most notably the fire that almost destroyed the Tyne Dock site in 2003, but presided over its immense growth, particularly into the aerospace and automotive industries.

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 workforce’s.

 Also in 2007, he was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise Partnership, and the following year he was made an MBE. In 2011 he was also awarded The Journal’s Life Time Achievement Award at the North East Business Executive of the Year Awards.

“Geoff Ford has been a passionate voice and inspirational force driving manufacturing prosperity and promotion in the North East for 40 years. A businessman of impeccable repute, his range of past and present achievements are many and varied, yet always stem from a commitment to make the region and its people economically prosperous and to strengthen manufacturing. His vision has led to record-breaking growth, the capture of new global markets, and sector enhancement through initiatives such as the creation of the Advanced Manufacturing Forum and the Ford Engineering Academy.” 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.

Son, 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 established a reputation as someone who wanted to put something back into the community where he was born and was well known for his charitable work and 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, which was supported by South Tyneside College, and more recently Gateshead College and New College Durham. 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 recognition of his commitment to helping young people into a career in industry, the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) has announced it will dedicate its apprentice award to Mr Ford. The Geoff Ford Apprentice Award, sponsored by Gateshead College, will be presented at the NEAA Annual Awards.

Richard Halstead, membership director at the EEF, said: “Geoff has been a long standing champion of the manufacturing sector for many years. He was a fiercely independent spirit, never afraid to be outspoken and to stand up for what he thought was right. In addition to leading Ford Engineering and Aerospace for many years, Geoff founded the South Tyneside Manufacturing Forum to promote manufacturing in his beloved South Tyneside. “

“He also set up the Ford Academy to provide traineeships and career opportunities in engineering for young people. Geoff always led from the front on issues he believed in, and his wit and expertise will be sadly missed by all his peers and colleagues at the EEF, and in the wider manufacturing and business community.”

Michael Dickson, executive chairman of Dicksons Butchers and long time friend of Mr Ford, said: “I’d known Geoff for some years. He was deservedly proud of his family business and it continued to get him out of bed in the morning well past retirement. He could never get his head completely around the concept.

“He had an opinion on most things and felt everyone was entitled to hear it! But I say that with the greatest affection. Running a company can be a lonely affair and if you called him to exchange “war stories” he was always ready with wise, friendly counsel. He was a great champion for South Tyneside and advocate for the business community. That went hand in hand with his passion to provide good quality, Local employment and training, because he cared about people, especially those who worked for him.”

Jonathan Walker, The Chamber’s assistant director of policy, said: “Geoff was a well-recognised and committed member of the North East business community and a passionate advocate of South Tyneside and its businesses. He was also a long-standing champion of young people building their career in the region. He will be greatly missed.”

Liz Mayes, chief executive of the Common Room of the Great North and former EEF regional director, said: “Geoff was a real champion for North East manufacturing and wasn’t shy about banging the drum on behalf of small, privately owned industry and its importance to the economy.

“He was also proactive in getting young people inspired about engineering, and had perhaps one of the most diverse shop floors I’d been onto in terms of attracting women into manufacturing. He leaves a strong legacy and will be greatly missed.”

Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields, said: “Geoff was an absolute stalwart of South Tyneside and North East manufacturing, every single time I had the pleasure of being in Ford Aerospace it was clear he was not only running a successful business but was making a difference to our wider community and creating opportunities for local people to gain valuable new skills. I will miss his good humour, kindness and intelligence I am deeply sad I won’t get to share a chat with him again, I am proud to call him a friend.”

Chris, who has followed his father into the Ford business, told mourners, many of whom listened to the service outside via loudspeaker: “He loved the business and loved the community of South Tyneside. “At 75 years of age, he showed no sign of slowing down.” The humanist service was led by Ian Hunter, who said Mr Ford had maintained a passion for his business and for South Tyneside.

He added: “He was an ambassador for the borough. He knew everybody, everybody knew Geoff. He got things done in a very quiet and understated way.”

“We do remember a fine man, a gentleman, indeed. He made quite a splash.”