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120317 Chamber Banquet Small Biz Person

Jimmy Jones of Jimmy Jones Toyota and Jimmy Jones Polaris receives the Small Business/Person of the Year award at Thursday night's Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet. Also pictured are chamber President Melinda Jackson, left, and Gail Fogle of award sponsor First Citizens Bank.

CHRISTOPHER HUFF, T&D

Jimmy Jones' family was present with him Thursday night at the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce banquet.

But not one person let out a peep about what was in store for the president and owner of Jimmy Jones Toyota/Polaris.

Afterward, Jones said he had no clue he was about to win the chamber’s 2017 Small Business/Person of the Year award.

“Somebody kept a good secret,” he said.

Jones was recognized to some joyous “whooos” and a standing ovation during the banquet, which was held at The Cinema.

"Orangeburg has been great," Jones said. "We have been here three years. The community has been great. The chamber has been great."

"We try to do the best we can do to give back to the community and I think that is what a lot of this award is about tonight is trying to take care of the community and to take care of the people in the community," he said. "We hope we can continue to do that."

The award is sponsored annually by First Citizens Bank.

To qualify for the award, the business needs to meet five criteria: ethical conduct, respect in the community, recognition for benefiting the community, leadership through improving the local business climate and membership in the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce.

A native of eastern North Carolina, Jones graduated from high school in 1993.

After high school graduation in 1993, he sold vacuum cleaners. He sold one to a man who worked at a Ford dealership in Greenville, N.C.

Jones ended up working at the Ford store for about a year, then joined a Toyota dealership in the same town to sell cars.

In 1998, he left for a Toyota dealership in Goldsboro, N.C., eventually becoming its general sales manager.

Later, Hubert Vester Toyota-Scion in the neighboring town of Wilson, N.C. needed someone with Toyota experience and hired Jones as general manager. He held the position until he came to Orangeburg.

During his tenure with Toyota, Jones has helped to rebuild and maintain successful dealer operations in sales, parts, service and customer satisfaction.

As a sales manager, general manager and owner, his teams have earned the Toyota President’s Award each and every year. The award is Toyota's highest.

Jones has served two consecutive terms on the Southeast Toyota Dealer Council and was named one of the top 40 under 40 automotive professionals in the country by the national publication "Automotive News."

Jones also currently serves on the Southeast Toyota Dealer Advertising Council.

Since his arrival in Orangeburg in 2014, Jones' team has won the Toyota President’s Award for three consecutive years.

In 2016, Jimmy Jones Toyota of Orangeburg ranked fourth out of 178 Southeast Toyota Dealers in their SET Dealer Elite program. This program measures each dealership in percentage of new car objective as well as sales and service retention. They also finished sixth in 2015.

As a business owner, Jones has served on the Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Automotive Advisory Board, Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce Board, as chairman of The One Orangeburg County Initiative's Gateway Task Force and on other committees within the county.

As the Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5 Teacher of the Year car program sponsor, the dealership provides the use of a new Toyota to the teacher of the year. The dealership also supports the MLK Jr. Oratory Competition, Orangeburg County Christmas Parade, Toys for Tots book bags for the Back to School Bash and other efforts.

Beyond his business experience, Jones was a member of the North Carolina National Guard.

He attended Fort Jackson in Columbia for basic training and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland for advanced training.

Jones has been married to his wife, Cecilia, for 22 years and has two sons. Cameron, his oldest son, is a freshman at Charleston Southern University and his youngest son, Carson, is in the eighth grade.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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