INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — P.E. MacAllister took over his father’s Caterpillar Tractor Co. dealership in 1951. At that time, he said men were still doing business with a handshake and a swift kick of the tires.
"My father, E.W. MacAllister, was a self-made man. Selling was glamorous, and he was a terrific salesman. He was not interested in administration, accounting or the more technical aspects of business," said MacAllister.
"A lot of guys in his generation wanted to do business with a handshake and be out on the job, kicking tires, not in the office with organization charts and job descriptions."
Times were changing, however, and young P.E. MacAllister, then in his thirties, saw the need to change with it. He hired a sales manager, expanded the staff and charted his way through the next 40 years.
MacAllister was named the 2014 recipient of the Indiana Sachem Award by Gov. Mike Pence for his civic and community leadership in the state. He has served as president of the Capital Improvement Board, where he played a key role in developing the Hoosier Dome, the Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium.
He also has headed the boards of many arts organizations, the Northminster Presbyterian Church and political campaigns, including William Hudnut’s run for Congress and mayor.
"P.E. MacAllister embodies the character, industriousness, and generosity that is the essence of the Sachem Award," Pence said. "His civic involvement in the life of our capital city, and Indiana as a whole, is incalculable."
Previous recipients include former college basketball coach John Wooden and gospel music singer-songwriters Bill and Gloria Gaither.
At 95, MacAllister is still involved in the business he helped build, though he turned over leadership in 1991 to his son, Chris. Headquartered in Indianapolis, MacAllister Machinery has 17 locations throughout the state. The company sells, leases and services Challenger tractors, Lexion combines, Caterpillar industrial machines and used equipment.
"I’ll be 96 next month, and I’m sitting in the office today. What does that tell you? My heart and my life are here. My business became a base, of sorts," MacAllister said last week. "What I’ve learned is that whether I’m on the board of trustees, a committee for a political campaign or building a new hospital or library, I want to see businessmen around the table.
"There are no failures in business."
Jay Shininger, Ag Division manager of MacAllister Machinery for the last eight years, said working with MacAllister is "impactful."
"He has so much knowledge, background and experience, and he has an ability to communicate that knowledge that is unsurpassed," Shininger said.
He is excited about the focus on agriculture equipment at MacAllister. Right now, he said the ag division makes up 15 percent of the company, but he expects that percentage to go up.
"P.E. has an interest and commitment to the ag business, with investment in resources to grow it. P.E. and Chris see the Ag Division as the premier growth opportunity for our company," Shininger said.
Ag equipment from AGCO and other manufacturers is sold, rented and serviced at seven locations in the state: Fort Wayne, Muncie, Indianapolis, Lafayette, Rensselaer, Terre Haute and Washington.
"A lot of people don’t know that MacAllister’s started out as an Allis-Chalmers dealership. Our roots go back to farm machinery," Shininger said. "Now, AGCO (successor to A-C) is our second-largest supplier of equipment. History repeats itself."