Robert Petersen Junior (Bob) was born in Waterloo in 1957, son of Robert Warren Petersen Senior and Helen Palmer Petersen. His grandfather, Warren Petersen (Pete) had purchased a majority share of the Northland brand in 1948 and ran it until his death in 1963, leaving the company in the hands of his son, Robert Senior. Bob graduated from Waterloo West High School in 1976, a few short years after his father’s passing in 1973. While Bob and his siblings worked on their education - Bob continued his studies at the University of Iowa where he graduated in 1981- their mother took over their family’s company.
After graduating from the University of Iowa in 1981, Bob spent a little over three months in Africa before returning to his home state. Moving to Des Moines in January of 1982, Bob took over Territory Management responsibilities in Southwest Iowa for Northland. In January of 1984, Bob relocated to Waterloo and assumed a greater management role within the company, where he has remained and currently serves as President.
Bob is passionate about his industry, and has served on many prestigious committees. Bob is a past President of the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association (ILMA) headquartered in Washington, D.C. During his tenure, Bob and the ILMA were successful in preventing the Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Association from becoming the lone agency responsible for all industry licensing, making it an even playing field and assuring open markets in manufacturing. Additionally, Bob and the ILMA worked to develop a solution for the Legislation and Regulation of Used Oil, helping to protect the environment. All of these accomplishments with the ILMA led to Bob being named Lubricants Industry Mover and Shaker as well as Person of the Year from Oil Daily and Lubricants World magazines.
In addition to his tremendous leadership at Northland Products, Bob has made a huge impact on the Cedar Valley community. As his father and grandfather had both served as Presidents, Bob followed in their footsteps by joining Rotary. As a member of the Waterloo Industrial Development Association, Bob participated in the creation of the Waterloo North East Industrial Park and as president, he helped to expand the park significantly. He also served on the Cedar Valley Economic Development Corporation, persuading large companies like the Target Distribution Center to locate in the Cedar Valley. Bob played an integral role in raising over $800,000 to complete funding for Young Arena, and also served as Co-Chair for the Waterloo Center for the Arts Youth Pavilion Campaign.
Perhaps Bob’s most significant community contribution is his momentous impact to the Downtown Waterloo redevelopment. Bob has been essential in raising funds for the River Renaissance Project, which includes projects such as a new dam that will make the Cedar River boatable again, the RiverLoop Expo that is now home to the annual My Waterloo Days celebration as well as countless other community and corporate events, as well as an Amphitheatre and Plaza adjacent to the Center for the Arts.
Robert Petersen has followed in the footsteps of a grandfather, father and mother who all exemplified what giving back was all about. He has followed the path they laid both corporately as well as personally and this can be seen clearly throughout the Cedar Valley.