(Photo by Diane L. Wilson)
"We were wanting to get back close to home, so we thought, let's send in a resume and see what's going on," Hahn said.
So he relocated his family to Cape Girardeau, where he's basically been ever since. He's had a multitude of jobs, mainly in engineering. His most recent one -- if you can call 22 years at one job recent -- has been as vice president of development at Midamerica Hotels/Drury Restaurants, the company owned by Jim Drury and operates the Holiday Inn Express and Victorian Inn & Suites, Burger Kings and now Popeye's.
No doubt, you've seen Hahn's handiwork. In his job, he's scouted locations for Burger Kings in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas and Kentucky and helped lure in such big-name restaurants and retailers as Cracker Barrel, Olive Garden, Panera Bread, Red Lobster, Texas Roadhouse, Coldwater Creek and Talbots.
Hahn, fresh off announcing the Coldwater Creek deal, sat down with Business Today recently for a quick Q&A session.
BT: How did you first get involved with Jim Drury?
Hahn: It was 1982. I was doing some construction management consulting and I ran into Jim. He had recently gone through some division with his brothers. So I was asked to come on temporarily.
I have always worked closely and continue to work with Jim and Wanda's children, who have taken over many of the responsibilities of running the company. Now, I'm doing mainly commercial and land development. The company has developments in Cape Girardeau, Paducah, Jonesboro, Ark., and St. Louis, and several other locations along I-55.
BT: What was your involvement with the Burger Kings that Midamerica has?
Hahn: When I came on, Jim had, as I recall, six Burger Kings. Now there are 37. We mainly look at a 150-mile radius of the city of Cape. I get there first, meet with city folks, facilitate the purchase of property. Later on, I was involved with the deals with restaurants and retailers and the other uses we have on our hospitality center at William and Mount Auburn.
BT: Tell us about that deal. The company decided to tear down the Holiday Inn and build a Holiday Inn Express. Was that part of the plan, to make room for restaurants?
Hahn: Yeah, it was. We planned on taking down the Holiday Inn, which was a 40-plus-year-old property. After that, there was ample space on the site for further development. We planned to put in new properties for various uses. I think it's turned out quite nicely so far.
BT: What part of your job do you enjoy?
Hahn: Not being interviewed by the Missourian. (Laughs.) Working with fellow employees and people in general. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I'm able to get a user. I see the end result. I meet with the people initially and get them to take a look at Cape Girardeau. You see, Cape Girardeau does not have the numbers, we're a town of 37,000. Some businesses want to go into larger markets than that. ... You have to get their attention and get them to the city. It's not always an easy sell. Once you get them to Cape, they open their eyes a little.
BT: What do you tell them about the area that makes them less skeptical?
Hahn: The benefits. Cape has two major hospitals, the interstate, and the university, among other things -- the river and the vibrant downtown. It's a nice town and it can be a profitable town. If I'm able to get them here and show them and they choose somewhere else in the city, fine. But hopefully, they'll choose our site. ... But that location near Holiday Inn Express is a great corner for our hospitality center. You just lay it on the table and show them what we have that is not readily apparent.
BT: Are there any drawbacks to doing business in Cape?
Hahn: Not doing business, no. I think Cape Girardeau stands on its own. The population numbers do not draw attention. You have to show them the day-time population, number of employees and other specifics. That's an impact. We are a draw. It just takes some longer to see that than others.
BT: What do you think this community is lacking?
Hahn: We are retail, health-care, education and entertainment center. But Cape Girardeau needs more opportunities for higher-paying jobs so that all citizens can make a good living for themselves and their families.
BT: Jim Drury has had some highly publicized battles with local governments around here. ...
Hahn: Jim wants what's best for the community. In the past, he's been a staunch supporter of the less fortunate. When he thinks the table is level, he's supportive. But when he thinks things are not particularly fair, he will stand up for what he thinks is best for the community.
BT: What sort of relationship do you have?
Hahn: We've worked hand in hand, Jim and I. I'm a cooperative employee. He's a colleague and a friend. I think we have a mutual respect for each other.
BT: You're recently turned 75. How much longer will you continue to work.
Hahn: Until there's no more work out there.
Position: Vice president of development, Midamerica Hotels Corp./Drury Restaurants
Experience: Vast. Hahn has worked all over the country as an engineer for various construction companies, mainly on bridgework and transportation projects; he was also city engineer for Cape Girardeau.
Education: Civil engineering degree from the University of Illinois in 1955
Personal: Married to Dorothy for 55 years with five children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Other involvement: St. Mary's Cemetery Board, 35 years; Chateau Girardeau board of directors; Hahn Family Vineyard growing three variety of wine grapes