Larry Jones, the owner of Universal Plumbing, was named the 2007 Small Business Person of the Year by the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
Mr. Jones' remarkable journey as a young boy from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Augusta to the successful owner of the city's largest plumbing service contractor was highlighted during his introduction by R. Daniel Blanton, the president and CEO of Georgia Bank & Trust Co.
"This is indeed a continuation of what has been very humbling for not only myself, but my family as well," Mr. Jones said at the ceremony at Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites. He referred to his journey as an ocean liner and recognized his sister, Claudia Jones, for being one of the "coal shovelers" who keeps the ship moving.
"You have no idea as to how much we appreciate all that you've done," he said to chamber officials.
The chamber began the program in 1989 to honor small-business owners and salute their importance to the community. Last year's recipient was Fred Daitch, the president and owner of International Uniform Inc.
Mr. Jones graduated from T.W. Josey High School in 1969. He supported himself doing odd jobs until he received an opportunity to become a collections specialist at the Medical College of Georgia.
He became interested in plumbing and applied for an opening for a plumber position at MCG. Mr. Jones had found his calling, and the young man received his plumber's license and stepped out on faith to open his own business.
In 1985, he started Universal Plumbing at his home and later moved his offices to 15th Street and then to Olive Road. Today, the company has achieved citywide success.
"I look at this city, and I love this city. I've been to many different places, and I can't wait to get back home," said Mr. Jones.
He spoke of the houses and gardens "we pride ourselves in" and mentioned the many people who help to build this city, from those who pour mortar and lay bricks to those who provide uniforms.
"This award is for all of us who get up in the morning and put on our shoes, pants and dresses and go to work and say that we want to make a difference," Mr. Jones said.
The event included a presentation by Jeff Strane, the deputy director of implementation for the Commission for a New Georgia, on "Unleashing the Power of Small Business." The chamber concluded its yearlong focus on small businesses at the luncheon.
Sue Parr, the chamber's president and CEO, noted that 86 percent of its members are small-business owners.
Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Larry Jones' story
Learn more about Larry Jones' journey from inner-city poverty to the top of Augusta's business community online at: chronicle.augusta.com/stories/030507/yrb_118639.shtml