Jon F. Hanson, founder and chairman of The Hampshire Cos., was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame on Sunday, May 6, during a ceremony in Asbury Park. — Courtesy: Gary Gellman
By Joshua Burd
Gov. Tom Kean addressed it from the start: Jon Hanson is under the radar.
And he certainly isn’t one to seek accolades for all he has done for the state of New Jersey.
But you may be familiar with his work — from negotiating the deals that brought the New York Jets and the New Jersey Devils to the state, to working behind the scenes to spur economic development in Atlantic City, the Meadowlands and elsewhere.
“I don’t know how many of you have heard of Jon Hanson,” Kean told a packed house on Sunday night at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. “But if you haven’t heard of him, you’ve certainly heard of the things he’s done.”
Hanson, the revered founder and chairman of The Hampshire Cos., was among those inducted Sunday night into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, in an event that drew a who’s who of Garden State influencers and locally born celebrities. He joined nearly two dozen business leaders, entertainers, public servants and others who made up the organization’s 2017 class, from Steven Van Zandt and Gloria Gaynor to the astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly.
Kean introduced Hanson, highlighting his work as both a developer and as chairman of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority during his administration in the 1980s. In addition to leading the effort to attract the Jets, the Devils and the Army-Navy game to the Meadowlands, Hanson spearheaded initiatives to bring new business to Atlantic City, which was in need of new investment to combat increased competition in casino gaming.
He did so while “still building a tremendous business,” Kean said.
“All the time, he was working to make this state a better place,” he said. “And by the way, you won’t find a more decent man and woman than Jon and Karen Hanson.”
In brief remarks, the Hampshire founder noted that he is a Bergen County native whose business has spanned multiple generations. He is the son of James E. Hanson, who is credited with developing the country’s first suburban industrial park, in Teterboro, and has a family that now includes 11 grandchildren and a dozen great grandchildren.
“I’m proud to be from New Jersey,” said Hanson, whose firm is based in Morristown. “I’m proud of my businesses here in New Jersey. But I’m probably most proud of the work that the governor just mentioned, both in the Meadowlands and Atlantic City.”
Hanson, who served as a longtime director of Hackensack University Medical Center, is also a director of Yankee Global Enterprises and chairman emeritus of the former HealthSouth Corp., the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.
He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame under the Enterprise category, which also recognized Steve Forbes, Joe Buckelew and “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro.
“Jon has been an inspiration to many,” said Terry Frassetto, president of Saddleback Real Estate Developers and a board trustee with the New Jersey Hall of Fame. “He is a mentor, not just in the real estate industry but to all of New Jersey.”
Hanson’s son, James E. Hanson II, said his father was honored to be recognized for a career that spans more than 35 years of both public service and private-sector investment.
“When you look at what my dad has done through his career, to be recognized for the Hall of Fame is really special,” said Hanson, Hampshire’s CEO and president. “He has never really tried to get accolades, so to be honored this way has a very special meaning to him.”