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Prime Inc. founder Robert Low last night accepts Lifetime Achievement in Business honors from Springfield Business Journal.
Prime Inc. founder Robert Low last night accepts Lifetime Achievement in Business honors from Springfield Business Journal.

Prime’s Low honored for Lifetime Achievement in Business

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Prime Inc. founder Robert Low accepted Lifetime Achievement in Business honors before a standing ovation last night at the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center as part of Springfield Business Journal’s 18th annual Economic Impact Awards.

Before a crowd of roughly 275 people, Low thanked his parents and wife, Lawana, and recalled the moment when he made his first million dollars. 

“Things are pretty shiny right now, but they haven’t always been,” he said. “In 1979 we made our first million and in 1981 we filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.”

Low started the trucking company 47 years ago in Urbana as a 19-year-old engineering student. The company grew from one dump truck to its current fleet in excess of 6,700 trucks, driving 18 million miles a week to deliver about 20,000 loads. With an anticipated $1.8 billion in revenue this year, Prime is spread across 15 locations, with three major terminals, and employs 7,600 drivers and 1,650 in-house associates – 1,250 of them in Springfield. The company’s annual revenues also have increased each year since 1986.

With holdings including casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi, and hotels such as the Oasis, Low’s portfolio is diverse, but he dedicated the award to his Prime drivers. He told the crowd they receive a lot of benefits – such as subsidized country club memberships – but he also asks a lot of them. 

“It’s quid pro quo: We ask them to work hard. We ask them to get 10 pounds of sugar in a 5-pound bag. Then, get up the next morning and do it again,” he said. “People say, ‘My mom or dad is just a truck driver.’ No, these people aren’t just anything. You are special." 

Among other awards of the night, businesses were honored for their economic impact in four categories based on years in operation. Taking home top honors were Hurts Donut Co., Burgess Aircraft Management LLC, Penmac Staffing Services Inc. and Bass Pro Shops.

“This is exciting, oh what a place this is,” shouted Bass Pro Shops Director of Conservation Martin MacDonald from the stage. “We’ve got about 200 construction workers working three shifts on Wonders of Wildlife to get it ready. Johnny (Morris) wanted to be here, but he’s on third shift duty making last-minute changes.”

Business honors also went to a hip joint Springfield LLC, Gilardi’s Ristorante, MariCorp US LLC, Total Highspeed LLC, Integrity Home Care Inc., JMark Business Solutions, College of the Ozarks and Mercy Springfield Communities.

Individual awards kicked off the evening with honors for the following: 
• Philanthropic Business of the Year: Hamra Enterprises
• Business Advocate of the Year: Missouri Association of Manufacturers
• Community Involvement Champion: Robert Roberts of Second Baptist Church
• Entrepreneur of the Year: Paul Allen, of Farm2Counter Inc.
• Charitable Nonprofit of the Year: The Child Advocacy Center Inc. 

Full stories on each award winner are published in SBJ’s July 31 issue, which begins the journal’s 38th year in publishing.



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