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MPH provides yearly local economic impact of $745,000
It was a five-day trip to South Dakota in the family “clunky, ‘85 ‘Georgie-Boy Motorhome.’” It was the trip George and Josie Anderson embarked upon to scheme up a name for the race track they knew they were going to build. That is just how they do things: get away to think and come back with a plan.
They were feeling a bit deflated as they headed home without a name. However, about an hour outside of Hastings, Josie looked down at the odometer, reading 78,000 and noticed the M.P.H. The light bulb went on at that moment, and Motorsport Park Hastings (MPH) went from an idea to actually having a name and identity. That was in 2005 and since then, MPH has brought over 50,000 race enthusiasts to central Nebraska.
O4B selected MPH as the Entrepreneur Extraordinaire in this issue for that very reason. George Anderson and his team have helped the community of Hastings see millions of dollars in new investment, new taxes and new businesses grow and prosper. They employ scores of people and have a large customer base during the race season. This has led to more usage of hotels, fuel, insurance, retail, hospital, ambulance services and recreation.
Anderson has been racing since his teenage years. He reflects back to the sixties when he had a Mustang and only one point left on his driver’s license.
“Back then it was all drag racing and that is all I wanted to do. I still have some of the pieces and parts from this… All I wanted to do was race,” he said.
It has always been an interest for him and most professional endeavors have led him to that world.
While in the service stationed in Germany, he visited family in Switzerland and through this, frequented a road course called Hockenheim. This was where he was introduced to road courses and where he raced on the weekends.
“I didn’t know anything about a road course, but on Saturday mornings for 20 marks, I could get my Corvette out and there were all of these Porsches and I could go out and drive with them," Anderson said. "I had no idea what I was doing, but they let me out there and through the corners, they would pass me, but on the straight-aways, I would blow them away. So, I always enjoyed that kind of racing; road course racing.”
Although he went to work for the family business, Western Land Roller, after returning home from the service. All the while, Anderson continued his love of racing. He raced a Cobra on road courses and that meant traveling. At the time, Nebraska had over 21 round dirt tracks, but not an asphalt-paved road course. For years, he loaded up the racecars and headed to St. Louis or Topeka, Kansas. He sometimes traveled 10 to 12 hours away to race. Then he decided the traveling part of the hobby was just too much; why not create a racing venue closer to home? And that is exactly what he did.
The Andersons returned to Hastings in the 70s and George worked for the family business. His position at Western Land Roller took them out of state in the late 80s. They came back to Hastings in 1991 and have owned Gessford Machine Shop since.
When the idea struck him to build a road track in central Nebraska, he shared his idea with several community stakeholders— and immediately gained support. Anderson tells the familiar story of sitting at Murphy’s Wagon Wheel in Hastings at Table 15 with his friends, and the napkin where they drew it all out. From there, the idea became a reality.
One of the heroes of this story is Dee Haussler, who served as the Director of the Hastings Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) from 1968 to 2012. Haussler helped Anderson identify potential locations and organize investors for the project. Ed Loutzenheiser, Jr. was also a key player, as he assisted Anderson in the process of deeming MPH as an industry. This distinction allowed HEDC to be involved with the project and for many other important steps including location in an industry park, which brought financing, utility and tax benefits.
In 2005, George reached out to Alan and Desiré Wilson of South Africa. They design race racks, and Desiré has won more Formula One races than any woman in the world. That year they had over 300 requests for track designs and selected MPH as one of only two projects to take on. Alan and Desiré were able to work with the team, including Tamara Babcock with City of Hastings Planning and Zoning Commission, to make the track a reality. On Labor Day of 2006, the first race took place at MPH.
During the planning process, it was challenging for Anderson to run his business and develop MPH. He explained that 20-hour days were necessary and not an exaggeration. He had to stay caught up but was willing to put in the extra time, and still does to this day.
Anderson credits the great team at Gessford Machine for being so solid. If it weren’t for that, he would not have been able to devote the necessary amount of time to MPH. The Gessford Machine team of 7 people are incredibly dedicated and produce high-quality work, Anderson said. He feels that this equates to the work of about 14 people. In addition to the Gessford team, there are over 50 part-time people employed at MPH during the race season.
The popularity and demand for races at MPH has been strong and is still growing. Anderson has almost every weekend booked, with a race from May through September. MPH has created events for Mustangs, Vipers, Corvettes, Formula Vee, Karting, Porsches, Motorcycles, Vintage Cars, Car Enduro, Corvair Classic and even Street Drag Racing.
Being a Federation of International Automobiles FIA-approved track has also led to great opportunities for MPH. One such event will be the Meritor Champ Truck World Series in September 2015. This will potentially bring 5,000 people to central Nebraska.
Anderson attributes a great deal to the community of Hastings for embracing MPH and making it work.
“People from all over are coming to Hastings that never would have without MPH being built," he said. "Our community has decisions made everyday by its citizens that affect how we all benefit and we’re just another part of the results. I’d say we are making progress in central Nebraska.”
He says he has always been accorded respect and consideration of his plans and ideas. The people of Hastings have risen to the opportunity, and the only thing lacking at this point are hotel rooms.
He hopes this is something that will be resolved in the future, but it is a challenge because the racing season lasts only five months out of the year.
It was clear during the interview with Anderson that he is a true entrepreneur. He recognizes his successes and is driven by his passion. His energy is contagious and he tends to spark that same ambition in others. He knows the importance of staying organized and on top of his tasks, evidenced by his organizational system, which included a spreadsheet for every aspect of his business.
Anderson shared the challenges of making MPH's cash flow positive in the beginning. Although the business has migrated beyond that point, there is always room to grow. He is the type of businessman who will continue to strive for improvement and ways he can transform MPH. For example, he recently allowed a cell phone tower to be built on the land at the race track to help pay the property taxes.
He is proud that the MPH team has become very good at what they do. He explained his philosophy on leadership: “Treat people in the way that lets them know that you need them more than they need you. That lets them know you really appreciate them.”
When a person looks at Anderson, one must wonder what his next venture will be. He admits he has learned that compromise is a must. He appreciates volunteering and being involved, but he has to put MPH first.
He doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon, although it is a long-term goal.
He would like to find that perfect person who might be interested in taking the MPH reins into the future. For now, he will continue to fill his day with emails, to-do lists and creating excellent customer experiences.
For relaxation, he and his wife Josie love to cook together, and late in the evening, he slips in a few hands of online poker, just for fun. They both are very involved in the community and you might catch them putting up holiday decorations around Fisher Fountain.
Anderson offers insight on being a successful entrepreneur in central Nebraska.
“If you believe in your community, then you should be volunteering your time for something that could make a difference,” he said. “I’ve been on at least one board or committee since I can remember, always hoping it was good for Hastings and Adams County. Not everything I served on did I make a difference, but with some I could go home in the evening and tell my wife Josie that I made a difference that day. I think to myself, things were better because I was there and working with others; we made a difference.”
Over the years in business, Anderson has learned that it isn’t always perfect. But the difference a person makes isn’t always in the outcome. It is the dedication and the time spent trying that matters.
“I’ve probably stepped on a few toes from time to time but in a good world, people forgive mistakes and allow each other to try again tomorrow,” Anderson said. “Everyone has an opinion that sometimes doesn’t agree with others’ opinions. You work together to have a better plan for tomorrow.”
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