Alumnus Michael Gasbarro picked up tricks of the trade at BGSU
By Bob Cunningham
Michael Gasbarro ’78 looks back at his time at Bowling Green State University with fond memories, but, more important, BGSU is where he learned a vital lesson in business that has stuck with him his entire career.
“Bowling Green taught me how to finish,” Gasbarro said. “One of the main things I learned from the business school is that the results speak for themselves, and you have to hold yourself accountable for what you say you will do. The professors were great about working with you to set your goals, your agenda and deadlines — and holding you to them. If you didn’t get things done like you said you would, it didn’t work out well — there’s no other way to say it.”
Gasbarro is the CEO of Prime Equipment Group, a family business that his father, Geno, started in 1992 in Columbus, Ohio. Prime Equipment manufactures and sells large-scale machines for chicken and turkey processing plants.
“I’ve been here since the start of Prime Equipment Group in 1992,” Gasbarro said. “We built on the successes of my dad, who is extremely innovative, in imagining and creating machines that process whole chickens and turkeys into consumer products for sale in grocery stores — quickly and in large numbers.”
The accountability lesson Gasbarro learned at BGSU is especially important when working with family members.
“Every day, we are relying on each other to meet the objectives we agreed on,” he said. “If not, we sit down and have discussions on why we didn’t get there, and we solve it moving forward. That’s a big part of making a company successful – teamwork and holding up your part of project.”
Prime Equipment has grown from a small family company to a multi-million-dollar family company, Gasbarro said, with offices and sales agents around the world and manufacturing facilities in Ohio, Georgia and Brazil.
“I work with my brother who is president, my son who is vice president, my sister and several other family members,” he said. “These days, I focus on strategy, finance, product development, research and development, customer relations, business development and growth.”
The Gasbarro family company has helped support the immense popularity of chicken as a prime source of protein in the United States and beyond.
“Our main impact, we like to think, is that we’re playing a part in making poultry processing more efficient, allowing for higher quality for consumer foods and lower costs,” he said. “At the bottom line, we’re proud that we make food affordable for people. We take the cost out of food.”
Just as Gasbarro feels at home running the family business, he felt the same way while attending BGSU.
“I really feel that Bowling Green was the right fit for me,” he said. “The business school was hands on, and the professors were hands on and accessible — and that helped me a lot.
“It’s funny, nobody goes to BG for the weather or the scenery,” Gasbarro said. “You’re going there because the University is the right fit for you. It has a feel that you’re there for a purpose, and the purpose is to get an education and get ready for the next part of your life. I think BG does a great job of that, and the things I learned there have become a big part of my adult life. It’s a great university. I’d recommend it to anybody.”
In addition to the lesson Gasbarro learned from BGSU, he learned how to take care of customers from his father.
“Our customers pay good money for our products, and they expect to make a return on that investment,” he said. “We focus our machines on making them money every day in things like increased productivity and output. If we don’t do that, our reputation can suffer.
“Every machine we put in the field, we have to back it up with that approach. We know we’re not finished unless the customer says we’re finished – and they’re getting what they expect from our equipment.”
Gasbarro has coached youth soccer in the Columbus area for more than 20 years. He lives in Columbus with his wife, Barb.
“We’ve raised five kids here, built a good business here, and most all of our extended family is here,” he said.