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GTG Peterbilt in Cedar Rapids had two reasons to celebrate Friday, Aug. 4. An open house at the dealership, at 9201 Sixth St. SW, not only showcased the completion of the business’ recent $3.5 million renovation and expansion project, it also served to recognize GTG Peterbilt’s 50th anniversary in Cedar Rapids. George Grask, majority owner and CEO of Grask Truck Group (GTG), said the remodeling project marks a milestone in the company’s history. “It's 50 years old, and it needed a remodel,” Mr. Grask said. “We had two smaller remodels over the years, but it was time for a total remodel, and it was well worth it.” Hundreds of local residents and supporters were on hand for the open house, which included exhibits of Peterbilt trucks and other heavy truck equipment, vendor booths, food and beverage, door prize raffles and live entertainment. Grask Truck Group traces its roots back to 1946, when George’s grandfather acquired a GMC truck franchise in Des Moines. The franchise was passed on to George’s father, who had originally planned to attend Drake Law School but began working at the dealership to earn a living. Law school fell by the wayside, and George’s father brought the GMC dealership through three expansions in Des Moines before coming to Cedar Rapids and purchasing the assets of Stone’s Truck Service, which was serving as the city’s GMC dealership at that time. In 1972, Gene Larson and Dave Unzeitig helped build a new facility for the company in 1972, on what was then an open lot off Sixth Street SW. “That was before the interstate was even open,” Mr. Grask said. “There was just dirt out front of this dealership.” When the new dealership opened in 1973, Mr. Grask was working for a dealership in Kankakee, Illinois, and in 1974 he moved to Pontiac, Michigan, to work at the GMC factory. “I was there until March 1975, when Dad called and made me an offer I couldn't refuse, and I moved my family over on a weekend and became the operations manager,” he said. “Then a year later, in July 1976, I became the dealer. I was 24 years old, and I was wet behind the ears. But what I knew how to do was to roll up my sleeves and go to work.” The operation continued to expand, and in 1982, Mr. Grask received word that GMC was planning to exit the heavy truck business, and he began searching for another heavy truck manufacturer to represent. “The number one truck in the marketplace was Peterbilt, so we said, ‘let's let's go see if we can get Peterbilt,’” he said. “As it turned out, we were able to buy the Peterbilt franchise in Davenport. I wanted to move it here to Cedar Rapids. Peterbilt said no, we love the Davenport market, but we love your facility and your people in Cedar Rapids, so we'll franchise that too. So in one fatal swoop, I got two dealerships.” GMG Peterbilt added more franchises along the way – one in Quincy, Illinois in 2012, another in Waterloo in 2018 – before purchasing the assets of Kansas-based Doonan Truck company in January 2023, adding new dealer locations in Great Bend, Hayes, and Wichita. And in July, Grask Truck Group expanded once more with the opening of a TRP Parts store in Wichita, marking the company’s eighth location. “It’s been a wonderful growth opportunity,” he said. “And we hope to continue growing.” Coinciding with GTG Peterbilt’s 50th anniversary in Cedar Rapids, the company completed an extensive remodeling and expansion project in Cedar Rapids this year. With a conference room, new offices, and a lobby with a parked Peterbilt semi-tractor, the building better serves employees while providing 24/7 marketing along Interstate 380. Build to Suit, Inc. served as the remodeling project’s general contractor, with OPN as the architect. One of the most prominent features of the remodeling project, designed by OPN’s Dave Sorg, is a large wire screen mural on the front side of the dealership, bearing the Peterbilt logo. “I get more comments on that than anything else we’ve done,” Mr. Grask said. “It’s very eye-catching as it looks out onto (Interstate) 380.” The sales and parts departments were also renovated as part of the project, with a remodeled visual parts display, and the service and body shops were expanded and refreshed. “If you look in our service areas, you'll see an atmosphere that just yells to a technician, ‘we need you to work here and you're going to want to work here,’” Mr. Grask said. “It's absolutely a comfortable place for them to turn a wrench. Good technicians are hard to find today, so you want to create a comfortable and enjoyable working environment for them. We recruit technicians very heavily, and they really enjoy working for us.” With 271 employees across GTG Peterbilt’s eight locations, the company needed additional physical resources to handle an ever-expanding workload, Mr. Grask said. “When you plan on growing, it's like building a house,” he said. “If you build a solid foundation, then you can add rooms to the house. If you build a weak foundation, then as you add rooms, that house eventually crumbles. We’ve been building a good foundation.” Part of that foundation has involved a diversification of GTG Peterbilt’s product lines. In addition to its core business of Class 8 heavy trucks, which includes all tractor-trailers, the company has also entered the Class 6 and 7 medium-duty truck market, featuring Peterbilt trucks at all locations and Hino trucks at the Davenport location. The company has also recently begun selling Doonan trailers, including flatbeds and grain trailers, at its Wichita location. GTG Peterbilt’s growth is part of an extensive trucking hub in Cedar Rapids and throughout Eastern Iowa, with several truck dealerships in the area, as well as national-level trucking companies such as CRST, West Side Transport, Heartland Express and Don Hummer Trucking. And even with the challenges the trucking industry has faced in recent years and continues to face, with a dramatic shortage of drivers and ever-increasing overhead costs, Mr. Grask said he feels the industry is well-positioned to remain an essential part of the global supply chain. “Part of the reason we're doing very well is because the economy in this country does not function without trucks,” he said. “We are an elite business. We are a necessary business for the economy to function. So needless to say, we're also a very good barometer of the economy – when our business seems to dip a little bit, it shows that recessionary times are on the way. And while we’re one of the first to feel it, we’re also one of the first to come out of it. The future of the truck business is very bright. We're attracting a lot of young talent, and it's not as dirty an industry as people think it is. We're highly computerized, and that attracts quality people. We also pay above normal, and that's very important to people. The economy won't function without trucks. You can't move goods from one place to another without a truck.”