WINNER: GEOFF FORD CBE
This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award goes to a man who epitomises the phrase ‘putting something back’.
South Shields-born, our winner qualified as an accountant in 1969 and after a brief period working abroad joined the family’s manufacturing business as financial accountant, moving on to the role of managing director in 1975 and launching a brand of laminate shim stock product which is now an award-winning global success.
In 1985 he became chair of the family business and after buying out the assets of competitors in 1992 and again in 2002 was at the helm of a business with a turnover in excess of £8m. However, a major blow was struck in 2003 when a fire raged through the premises causing extensive damage. But under the inspirational leadership of our winner, the business got back on track and continued to go from strength to strength, picking up a string of awards on the way.
Although still chair of the business now, it is perhaps Geoff’s voluntary commitments that really struck a chord with the judges. In 2003 he became chairman of the South Tyneside Committee of the North East Chamber of Commerce encouraging them to be more proactive in South Tyneside. With the bit firmly between his teeth, he then became chairman of South Tyneside Enterprise Partnership and vice chairman of South Tyneside Local Strategic Partnership, where he was instrumental in the borough winning beacon status for its LSP – the only one in the Tyne & Wear area to be recognised.
Then in 2005 the Chancellor of the Exchequer launched a national competition to find the most enterprising place in Britain. South Tyneside was awarded the title of Regional Capital of Enterprise, a first for the NorthEast. Yet again our winner played a key role in this massive achievement which proved to be a catalyst for enterprise promotion across the borough and beyond.
And to quickly summarise just a handful of his other achievements: he set up the South Tyneside Manufacturing Forum, received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion, was appointed Regional Councillor for EEF North East, founded the Workplace Health Alliance in South Tyneside, and in 2008 was awarded an MBE for services to business in the North East, the same year turnover for the family business exceeded £10m.
Geoff has made a huge contribution not just to South Tyneside but to the whole of the region across a wide range of sectors; and not just as a businessman and employer but as a mentor to countless people from a variety of business backgrounds.