COLLEAGUES have bid a fond farewell to JCB Chief Executive Officer Alan Blake who is retiring from the company after almost a quarter of a century of service.
Alan Blake became JCB CEO on January 1, 2010 – only the fifth person to hold the position at the firm, one of the region's biggest employers.
Dozens of friends and colleagues gathered at the World HQ in Rocester to say goodbye at a special presentation.
Chief Executive Officer Designate Graeme Macdonald, who is set to take over as CEO today, January 1, said: "Alan has contributed a huge amount to the growth and success of JCB over many years.
"The expansion projects Alan led enabled JCB to double its production from 36,000 to 72,000 machine over a five year period.
"In addition to his vast achievements at JCB, he will also be remembered for his humility and for making time to speak to everyone, no matter what their rank or position and that's something we are all going to miss.
"On behalf of the 11,000 JCB employees around the world, our dealers and customers, we wish him a very long and happy retirement."
The company has two factory sites in Cheadle and employs people from across the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Mr Blake, who will remain as an advisor to JCB, said: "Coming to JCB was one of the best decisions of my life; the breadth and width of what you can learn here is enormous and the opportunity to achieve great things is endless.
"I have been fortunate to have a great career here and one that has coincided with the global growth of the company. I have met and worked with some truly brilliant people all around the world and I will never forget my time at JCB."
Mr Blake joined JCB in 1989 from Somerset-based Westland Helicopters after a distinguished 19 year spell at the company, which saw him rise through the ranks from apprentice to Head of Helicopter Transmissions.
He joined JCB Transmissions in Wrexham in 1989 as Operations Director with responsibility for developing new transmissions for two of JCB's two key products - the world leading backhoe loader and Loadall telescopic handler.
In 1995 he was promoted to Managing Director of JCB Transmissions and led the company through an unprecedented period of growth which saw the doubling of production capacity with the opening of a second plant at the Wrexham site.
In 2000 he was appointed Managing Director of JCB Service with the task of maximising JCB's reputation for excellent customer service as the company rapidly expanded its dealer network and customer base in new and expanding territories.
In 2003 he became Group Manufacturing Director responsible for JCB's global production operations and led the biggest expansion and investment programme in the company's history.
In 2009 Mr Blake became JCB's Chief Operating Officer before taking up his current position.
Alan is married to Diane and has two grown-up children.