This is typical of the man: when he wanted to learn how to fly, built his own airport. Not just any old bumpy landing strip in a field either, but a proper airport that has since been used by dozens of dignitaries, including former US President Bill Clinton.
Before becoming the 'new' Waltrip Recycling, the 'old' Waltrip either dumped all unwanted debris in the ground or incinerated it, but the company's decision to start recycling wood material considerably extended the life of the landfill. Larry started separating all debris, including asphalt, concrete, pallets, dirt, brush, stumps and yard debris, thus ensuring the longevity of the landfill while recycling materials for an eco-friendly finished product. "We started making material that people wanted - affordable mulch," says Larry, who launched Waltrip Recycling in 1992, one of the first commercial grinding operations on the East Coast.
Waltrip Recycling is proud that the new nature of its business involves the preservation of precious natural resources. "We may just be a speck in terms of curing global warming, but if more people thought like Larry did maybe the Polar caps wouldn't be melting as quick," says Vice President Don Broady, Jr.
Larry's crew uses a grinder at the job site and then takes the ground material back to the yard where it is reprocessed into a finished product. They currently run seven blower trucks and employ 30 people year-round, but add more staff in the peak season of April and May.
When Larry first opened the recycling operation he owned just three pieces of equipment: the grinder, an excavator and a used Volvo L160 wheel loader. Don's first taste of running big equipment was when he stepped aboard the Volvo in 1992.
"Let me tell you something, when you've got no equipment experience and you're trying to put a half yard of mulch in the bed of a Toyota pickup truck using an eight-yard bucket, you get a little nervous," Don adds. "But the Volvo was so easy to operate, so efficient and so comfortable that I learned in a hurry."
In 1995 they bought their first Volvo Express Blower truck equipped with a 260ft (80m) hose that allows them to lay down the product more efficiently than any other method. Currently Waltrip owns a selection of Volvo wheel loaders: an L70, two L90s, an L120 and the new L150. They also added a Volvo EC290 and an EC330 excavator that handles all the bulk work with its stump shear attachment. Although the original L150 was already three years old when Larry bought it, he kept it on the job until it was finally replaced in September 2007. Waltrip runs its operation six or seven days a week, up to 12 hours a day, and Larry has been impressed by the durability of his Volvos.
"I've tried all the pieces of equipment," he states. "I'm always looking for the best - and Volvo is just a masterpiece." Larry concedes that the Volvo may be more expensive up front, but points out that in the final analysis he gets more than his money's worth. "When you consider that it costs less to operate, is more efficient on the job, and is with you for the long haul, you're actually saving money when you buy a Volvo," he says.
It was with the same clear-headed logic that Larry created his very own airport. When Larry was serving in the Air National Guard back in the 1960s he realized that he could get to the base in Richmond, VA., a lot quicker if he went by air. He was told he needed a permit from the state, and a guarantee that the airport would be open for both public and private use. No problem.
"After three years I won out on public opposition and we opened the Williamburg-Jamestown Airport on September 20, 1970," he said. Although Larry intends to sell the airport soon so he and his wife Jean, who runs it, can spend more time together, he has no intention of retiring. "When it doesn't feel like work you can enjoy it - and that's exactly what I'm doing."
Text: Jack Martin