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Scott Peterson Motors Inc
Belle Fourche, South Dakota
“I tell my staff we have a responsibility to our community to run a successful and profitable dealership”
“I tell my staff we have a responsibility to our community to run a successful and profitable dealership,” nominee Peterson said. “This allows us to accomplish many things and support events and organizations that enhance the quality of life for all.”
A 1983 graduate of Grant-Deuel High School in Revillo, South Dakota, Peterson studied business at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota.
While growing up on a farm, Peterson and his brothers would fix or modify all kinds of equipment and vehicles for their father. “When I was 14 years old, my dad allowed me to purchase a 1967 Chevy Camaro,” he said. “That started my love affair with cars. I raced it, wrecked it, painted it, modified it, dated my wife with it and still own the car today.”
Peterson has been self-employed since 1988. “I have always loved anything with a motor,” he said. “Paying my way through college, I bought and sold cars, modifying and doing repairs while I owned them.”
Despite his mechanical skills and self-reliant nature, it was difficult for Peterson to get a loan for his first business at the age of 23. “After getting laughed out of a couple of banks, I found an old cowboy banker who was willing to lend me $30,000 to start my first used-car lot in Belle Fourche,” he said. “My wife, Susan, handled the books, and we have now worked together for more than 30 years.”
The Petersons built the business by reconditioning cars and standing by them, earning a stellar reputation in the area. When a Ford and Chrysler dealer from across town wanted to sell his dealership in 1991, he approached the couple. “We were young, 26 and 24. He made us a great deal and we jumped on the opportunity,” Peterson said. “Without him believing in us, we would not have been able to take on this huge endeavor.” “We are still grateful for the opportunity he gave us.” In 2013, Peterson added a Ford dealership in Sturgis, South Dakota.
A lifelong South Dakotan, Peterson is proud of the people – both his employees and customers – that have helped make his company a success. In turn, he is devoted to giving back to his community on many levels. He supports local youth sports, rodeos, swimming lessons, driver’s education programs, food drives and blood drives. His annual Crush Cancer initiative provides the American Cancer Society with $100 for every vehicle sold during the month of May. And to draw customers to his dealerships for the promotion, two cars are actually crushed.
“We have donated more than $100,000 in the last five years through our Crush Cancer event, and our annual food drive has generated $105,000 and 18 tons of food over 10 years,” he said. “We host the second largest blood drive annually in western South Dakota at our dealership.” His efforts resulted in the South Dakota Retailer Association naming Scott Peterson Motors the 2017 South Dakota Retailer of the Year.
Beyond his own business, Peterson also supports economic development in the area and has led the Belle Fourche Development Corporation as president. “We were instrumental in developing an Industrial & Rail Park, assisting new businesses to locate in Belle Fourche and promoting current businesses to expand, which resulted in 200 new jobs as well as increasing our tax base,” he said.
Peterson is also proud that South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard tapped his expertise and appointed him to the South Dakota Workforce Development Council and the state’s Board of Technical Education. “I take my reputation and the reputations of my dealerships very seriously,” he said. “It is an honor to be recognized by the governor and to help responsibly further the growth of our industry, our state and our workforce.”
And while these big initiatives are important to Peterson, his most rewarding moments are when he helps people in his local community. “When we can help a family who has a break down and get them back on the road, help a new driver purchase his or her first ride or make a donation to aid a cancer patient – these moments have been incredible,” he said.
Peterson was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Myron L. Rau, president of the South Dakota Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Susan, have two children.