MERRILLVILLE | Roland Parrish readily admits he wouldn't be the successful businessman he is today without Northwest Indiana.
From the adults in his neighborhood who got up every Monday morning to go to work, to his father who worked three decades in the steel mills, to his inspirational coaches and teachers, the Texas entrepreneur says he was shaped by growing up in the region.
"My name is Roland Parrish, and I'm a proud product of Lake County, Ind.," the 61-year-old said at the 2015 Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame induction ceremony Tuesday at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza.
The luncheon was hosted by The Times Media Co. and BusINess magazine.
Parrish, the keynote speaker at Tuesday's event, grew up in Hammond, graduating from Hammond High School in 1971. He went on to attend Purdue University, where he was a track star and industrial-management major. He later worked for Texas-based Exxon. From Exxon he went on to become a McDonald's franchisee, today owning 25 Dallas-area McDonald's restaurants that gross more than $60 million annually.
"There is no doubt that Roland would be a member of our Hall of Fame if he lived here or operated a business here," Times Editor Bob Heisse said in introducing Parrish, calling him someone "who has come far, moves fast, but still takes time to help out fellow Hoosiers."
In that vein, Parrish funds an annual scholarship for high-school seniors in Hammond and in 2010 donated $2 million to renovate the management and economics library at Purdue.
On Tuesday, he told the story of how his grandfather, who tied his boots with wire because he didn't have laces, always showed up at his Depression-era job two hours early because his boss only gave out as many shovels as the number of workers he needed that day.
"My wife would ask me when I started down on this journey, 25 years as a franchisee, why I work so hard," Parrish remarked. "I said, 'I stand on my grandfather's shoulders.' "
He noted that in business it's important not only to be proficient in science, engineering, technology and math but also what he called the soft skills: managing people, customer service, team building. To this day, he randomly gives out $50 bills to workers who go above and beyond.
"If my employees respect me and trust me, I can influence them," he said. "Today I feel confident that, at 5 a.m., those 25 McDonald's restaurants will open on time."