In 1990, William Carey University and the Area Development Partnership joined together to create the Small Business Leadership Award, given annually to recognize outstanding leaders in the community, particularly small businesses who make contributions to the economic, social, and cultural life of the community.
This year, the award went to brothers Donnie and Larry Doleac, owners of Doleac Electric Company, which has grown since the 1940s into a company that featured gross sales of $48 million in 2007. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s award ceremony was conducted virtually over Zoom, with comments from the Doleacs, William Carey president Tommy King, and keynote speaker Kent McCarty, who represents District 101 in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
“We appreciate this award,” Donnie said. “It’s an honor for us, as well as our company, and all the people who have worked to get us where we are today. We consider every one of our employees family and we thank them very much.”
Doleac Electric Company was founded in Hattiesburg in 1947 and continues its presence in the electrical construction industry in the South by providing electrical work and meeting all formal requirements according to specifications, plans and change orders.
After the death of company founder Malcom Doleac – the father of Donnie and Larry – in 1972, the brothers took over the leadership role in the company.
Donnie’s main responsibilities were to manage the inside operations of the company, while Larry took on managing other operations.
In the early 1980s, the decision was made to pursue more commercial, industrial, retail and institutional projects and to leave the residential market.
During this time to present day Doleac Electric grew from a company with gross sales of approximately $500,000 to $750,000 in 1972 to the $48 million figure.
The company now has two locations, including the main office in Hattiesburg on Finlo Drive and the Gulf Coast division on Dedeaux Road in Gulfport.
“We’ve been very fortunate over the years to have great people,” Larry said. “We’ve got employees who have been with us for over 40 years.
“If it weren’t for those kinds of people, we wouldn’t be getting this award. It’s a great honor for us, and I think our dad would be very proud of us also.”
The Small Business Leadership Award is given in memory of Dr. Joe Roberts, former professor of communication at William Carey University and one of the founders of Aycock-Rogers Furniture. The award recipients are jointly chosen by the Area Development Partnership and William Carey University.
The recipient must own or manage a business that meets the criteria established by the two organizations and must participate at the highest level of community service as well as display Judeo-Christian values.
“The company was founded by Mr. Malcolm Doleac in 1947 and, for most of his lifetime, it was a residential electrical contractor,” King said. “After his death in 1972, Larry and Donnie took over the leadership of the company.
“In the 1980s, they transitioned into commercial electrical contracting work. The company has had remarkable growth, with revenues of more than $40 million now. These are the kind of leaders who make our city what it is today, and we’re so proud of them.”
Past award winners include but are not limited to Jack Simmons of Simmons Furniture Company, Robert Tatum and Craig Tatum of CR Properties, Andy Stetelman of London & Stetelman Commercial Realtors, Robert St. John of New South Restaurant Group and the Myrick family of Economy Supply Company.
“We are so pleased to be a partner with William Carey University in honoring small businesses,” ADP president Chad Newell said. “Donnie and Larry Doleac have grown their business into a thriving commercial, industrial and military related electrical contractor headquartered here in Hattiesburg.
“They have also given back to the community in so many ways, including Donnie’s service on the ADP Executive Committee and Larry’s advocacy for youth baseball. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community, and the ADP is so glad to be part of honoring distinguished companies like Doleac Electric.”
Three award scholarships were also awarded at the ceremony, two of which went to William Carey business students Kaitlyn Gory of Hattiesburg and Anthony Bullock of Brooklyn.
Those two scholarships were presented by Cheryl Dale, dean of the William Carey University School of Business.
“These students have been selected based on their moral character, their determination in completing tasks and a work ethic that will lead to success in business,” Dale said.
In addition, Dean Pace of the William Carey Office for Advancement presented the Richard “Pepper” Jones Endowed Scholarship to Alexandria Nowell of Richton.
A Hattiesburg native, Jones was a strong advocate for education and facilitated closer working relationships between local universities and the business community.