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Don's Ford, Inc., Utica, New York
“Success is always sweet no matter how it comes, but I have had the wonderful good fortune of joining my father and brother early in my career and being part of a transition from a small Studebaker dealer to a multi-franchise auto group,” nominee Carbone said. “We had a great deal of fun and satisfaction in a business that we all truly enjoy and at which we have worked very hard.”
And that connection to the auto business began when Carbone’s father opened a Studebaker dealership in Utica in the 1930s and Carbone’s family lived above the store. “Mornings before school, evenings after school and summers were spent in the dealership, handling tasks,” he said. Carbone graduated from New Hartford High School in New Hartford, New York, in 1955, and earned a BS in commerce from the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1959. He then spent three years in the United States Marine Corps, rising to the rank of first lieutenant.
Upon returning home from the military, he went back to work in the family business and opened Don’s Downtown Ford in 1968. Today, the Carbone Auto Group encompasses more than 20 franchises operating in 12 locations in New York and Vermont. Carbone’s daughter, son, nephew and two sons-in-law work for the family enterprise. “As I watch my children and our loyal, highly competent management team drive our organization and our community to new heights, I know now that this was my ultimate goal,” he said.
In the area of community service, Carbone is on the board of trustees for Utica College and a major benefactor, establishing the Joseph and Inez Carbone Scholarship Fund in honor of his parents and helping to fund a new auditorium. He’s also on the board of the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties and the Kelberman Center, as well as a supporter of the House of Good Shepherd, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and founder of the Resource Center for Independent Living’s Wonderland of Lights. He has donated money to many organizations, including St. Elizabeth Medical Center for its new trauma building. In addition, Carbone Auto Group awards two to four scholarships to employee’s children and driver education vehicles to Utica-area high schools.
Carbone is proud of his work for the United Way, which resulted in the largest percentage increase in fundraising in his area when he chaired the annual drive. He was flattered to receive the organization’s Real Hero honor and has received numerous awards for his philanthropic efforts. While he remembers those occasions fondly, he said, “These awards left me with an emotion so high and a sense of responsibility so deep that these feelings have continued to provide me with new energy, purpose and commitment to attend to the needs of my community.”
Carbone was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year Award by Robert Vancavage, president of the New York State Automobile Dealers Association. Carbone was also the Association’s nominee in 2002 and went on to become a top five national finalist. He and his wife, Edna Lee, have four children and 10 grandchildren.