It is a fact that if George Elmore is behind a community effort, there’s no chance for failure. As Elmore, president of Hardrives, Inc., and this year’s American Free Enterprise medalist, stepped to the podium in Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Rubin Arena, he received a loud round of applause from the audience. They were here to celebrate this remarkable man who has touched so many lives, and whose greatest gift is to make things happen through good and bad economic times.
Born in 1929, in the height of the Depression in America, Elmore saw his parents fight the battle to keep their home and put food on the table for their family. “They didn’t have any extra income, so if I wanted a bicycle or a fishing rod, I had to go out and mow lawns, prune gardens, run errands—whatever I could if I wanted that special recreational tool,” said Elmore.
He graduated high school in 1947 in Pennsylvania in a high school with 36 students. After he graduated, his family moved to Fort Lauderdale and worked with his uncle, who had a paving business.
“My mother was a teacher and she insisted I go to college, and so I granted her wishes and went to college…for one year,” he said. “I went to the University of Miami, and it was a small school back then, but it didn’t know much about the paving business, doing driveways and that kind of thing, so I left.”
Elmore returned to Fort Lauderdale, where he met his wife Wilma and six months later, they were married. Six weeks after that, he was drafted and gave three years of his life to the United States Army. “That was a very educational experience for a farm boy from New Castle, Pennsylvania,” said Elmore. “I didn’t go to Korea, but I went all over the United States. I met a lot of people from various backgrounds and educations, and this was very educational for me, especially when I went into business for myself, because I understood where people were coming from.”
After Elmore left the Army in 1953, he moved to Delray Beach, where he started his business, Hardrives Inc., and made driveways and parking lots with only two employees. His first job was a $125 driveway in Boynton Beach, and it is still there today after so many years. “That was also the last paycheck that somebody signed for me when I left the army,” added Elmore. “I started signing my own paychecks in 1953 and 65 years later, I’m still signing my own paychecks. It’s refreshing, it’s interesting, and it’s worth the challenge.”
His business grew slowly but strongly. He worked hard, and it took him ten years before he earned his first million dollars in sales. Ten years later, his company made 10 million dollars in sales, and he decided then that it was time he found out what his community was all about, and how he could help it.
For over 40 years, wherever he found an opportunity, he led and served on numerous boards, promoting community and planting many seeds in Palm Beach County. He’s never forgotten his mother’s passion for education, and so he’s spent so much of his time committed to educational organizations, such as Scripps Research Institute, Palm Beach Atlantic University and other universities throughout South Florida.
His many other philanthropic endeavors have supported civic and cultural organizations including the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Bethesda Hospital, WPBT Channel 2, Community Foundation of Palm Beach & Martin County and the Gulf Stream Council of Boy Scouts.
With Elmore’s leadership, perseverance and “street smart” intuitive mind, Hardrives has paved the way for South Florida, constructing major highway projects, including most of Interstate 95 and other major thoroughfares in the area.
With lucrative partnerships with affiliates in the industry, Hardrives has become one of the largest road construction firms in Palm Beach County and one of South Florida’s longest-running heavy construction firms. One of the company’s most noted environmental contributions is the development of Spanish River Park in Boca Raton—the first oceanfront park in South Florida that protected and preserved trees and dune in their natural habitat. Elmore was proud to note that the park was recognized with national awards and a presidential citation.
“I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon…I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed,” concluded Elmore.
At the end of his speech, Elmore shared his Recipe for Life:
Take two heaping cups of patience,
One heartful of love and
Two handfuls of generosity.
Add a dash of laughter, and a
Full cup of understanding and
Two cups of loyalty.
Mix well and sprinkle generously with kindness. Spread this irresistible delicacy over a lifetime and serve everyone you meet.
Also honored on Thursday were the three companion medalists, Joseph Anderton, executive vice president and one of the founding partners of Bass Underwriters, Inc.; John Crossman, president and chief executive officer of the Crossman & Company; and Damien Simmons, owner/manager of Atlantis Pharmacy.
American Free Enterprise Day is a tradition at Palm Beach Atlantic University since the first celebration took place in 1984.