Jerry Trooien was born the second of four children to Ozzie and Gerry Trooien. Both parents were of Scandinavian background. Jerry’s father came from immigrant farmers who settled on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota.
A proud Minnesotan, Jerry grew up on St. Paul’s East Side. From his early childhood, Jerry loved sports and non-fiction/fiction stories of heroes who fought for justice and the downtrodden. He grew up surrounded by parents and other families who believed in the value of hard work and being recognized not for how rich you were, but for how richly you lead your life. To this day, Jerry sees himself as a product of growing up on the East Side.
From an early age, Jerry was competitive and loved sports. At age 7, he was able to negotiate his way into playing Little League even though the minimum age requirement was 8. The simple reason was his love to play.
“As a kid my nightmares were about not being able to participate in the game because equipment would not fit or something else prevented being able to play. Those were some bad dreams!”
Like many kids, his athletic dedication and passion to play became a centerpiece of his growing up.. Jerry attended St. Paul Harding High school where he played football, hockey and baseball. Through supportive parents and hard work, he was honored as St. Paul Public School Athlete of the Year in 1965 and received All-City, All-State and High School All-American (Hockey) awards. Jerry was honored to be chosen as one of the 100 Greatest Athletes of the first 100 years of St. Paul Public School Athletics.
After High School, Jerry attended the University of Wisconsin – River Falls where he played football and hockey. He still holds school passing records. After graduating he had contracts with the Washington Redskins and his beloved Minnesota Vikings. He also had experience in professional hockey including playing in Europe .
“As it has been said, sports does not build character it reveals it. Sports is not the only place for a kid to develop their character. For some it comes thru the arts or school or simply the challenges of a difficult life. For me it is what I liked to do and it taught me great lessons of teamwork and striving hard. Also, there is something redemptive about getting knocked on your butt and getting up.”
After sports Jerry dove head first into the business world. He never had any training nor ever took a business class in college. Over the course of 30 years, he grew from nothing to being one of the largest real estate investors in Minnesota, owning millions of square feet of commercial space, numerous residential and rental buildings. He has also had companies in the medical device, bio-science, mining, software and aviation industries.
In 1992, he married his wife Janice. They worked together in business and in raising a family. When Janice died in 2009 at 54 years old of ovarian cancer, Jerry had to raise their 15-year old daughter and 11-year old son (another daughter was in college) while trying to weather through one of the worst economic recessions in American history.
During this extremely trying time, of which he had to re-organize his businesses to survive while the economy recovered and personally recover from what he has called “the most painful experience of his life” with the passing of Janice, Jerry re-committed himself to building a better future not just for his family but also for Minnesota.
“Janice’s death was the most painful experience of my life, a very difficult thing to go through that unfortunately many people share. I am so grateful for the gift of marriage and family.”
Through resilient determination he has recovered from those very trying times that so many Americans also had to experience. He has been blessed to have recovered in his business. Faith and belief are at the center of his thinking. Jerry sees gratitude as the key. Gratitude for the opportunities America and Minnesota offer. He also accepts the challenge of being open minded and being a critical thinker.
“I am never too smart to believe I have all the answers. I love to learn and absorb the wisdom of people around me.
“We can learn from those who help us get a deal done as well as from the deal that you get done but then might turn around and kick your butt. ‘Deal’ does not mean just business but includes all the interactions and relationships of your life. The key to success is always commitment which leads to consistency. I see myself as committed and consistent.”