Monday, April 19, 2010

Prostrollo finds economic development rewarding

Jerry Prostrollo has been involved in economic development for more than 30 years and during that time period, the Madison native says it has been exciting, fun and rewarding.
Prostrollo was involved in three major economic development projects: the Dakota State University mission change, Gehl Manufacturing moving to town and rail service reestablished in Madison.
Many people have been involved in economic development throughout the years, Prostrollo said. “One person doesn’t do it all.”
He started in the petroleum business. Then, in 1957, Prostrollo launched Prostrollo’s Auto Mall. He owned multiple dealerships throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. There were 11 employees at the start. Today, that same dealership in town has 80 employees.
His son, Pat, who runs Prostrollo Auto Mall in Madison, remembers how hard his father worked to make the Madison area a better, stronger place to live and raise a family. “He would spend a great deal of his time away from his business on local and state issues and business recruitment, not for his own self interest but for the betterment of the entire Lake County area,” Pat said.
One time Pat hauled two foot pieces of sod from the south side of Lake Herman to build a sod house at Prairie Village. “At the time I wondered to myself, why does he do these sorts of things and why does he care?” he recalls. “Then I got into business with him and realized how important Prairie Village and all the other projects he worked tirelessly on were to the Madison area. He spent weeks, maybe months, recruiting companies like Gehl Industries, Rapid Air, Guerdon’s Mobile Homes, and many, many others.”
Prostrollo retired from the car business 18 years ago. But, it wasn’t long before Gov. Bill Janklow called and asked for Prostrollo’s help.
He was appointed chairman of the REDI Fund. Later, he was appointed chairman of the South Dakota Railroad Authority.
As part of the South Dakota Railroad Authority, he helped secure a $33 million bond that constructed a railroad line to the coal fields. This was essential for the Big Stone Power plant.
That connection with the Railroad Authority also helped bring the Burlington Northern Railroad back to Madison.
“The town needs a railroad,” Prostrollo said.
A railroad allows farmers to export their grain. In addition, the elevator was able to increase storage capabilities and bring fertilizer in by rail cars, helping reduce its costs, Prostrollo said.
“It makes land more valuable and there is potential for economic development.”
Prostrollo was instrumental in luring Gehl Manufacturing to the community in the 1980s. “Bringing the industry to town spurred things on,” Prostrollo said.
And then with the help of Gov. Janklow’s efforts, Prostrollo said Madison was able to save Dakota State University. At that time there were 700 students. Now, more than 20 years after the mission change, more than 2,500 students are attending the university.
A new group now is working on economic development and Prostrollo is satisfied with the direction economic development is moving in Madison.
And Pat is following his father’s footsteps in business. And after becoming involved, Pat said he understood the importance of his father’s activities. “I’m grateful for those values he instilled in me growing up. “You truly can make a difference.”

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