LA GRANGE, Ky. (July 2004) In his own quiet, soft-spoken manner,
James L. Hannah has been a driving force behind the economic growth
of Oldham County for decades. Because of his accomplishments and community
involvement, Hannah has been chosen as Grand Marshal of this years
Oldham County Day Parade.
July 2004 front cover
Born in Decatur, Ill., Hannahs family moved to Louisville when
he was still a child. He remained there until he discovered the tiny
hamlet of Westport in 1976. Working at the time for Louisville Gas
& Electric Company, Hannah had been called there one night at
3 a.m. by a resident who needed his power restored. This same resident
encouraged him to move to Westport and he eventually did because,
I fell in love with it.
Hannah, now 83, remained with LG&E for 46 years, beginning at
the bottom rung of the ladder. His first assignment was in a summer
program selling light bulbs door-to-door for a national Lamp Campaign.
For the 16-week period this contest was sponsored by a major electric
company, Hannah was the winner for every week but one. The top two
sellers won the coveted position of office boys for LG&E, and
Hannah went to work in the accounting department.
He left this job in 1942 upon being drafted into the military during
World War II as a private and was an instructor in the U.S. Air Force
Officers School. Discharged from military service in 1946 as
a 1st lieutenant, Hannah said, I knew I wanted to do something.
Feeling a loyalty to his pre-war job, he returned to work for the
utility company. LG&E executives decided a first lieutenant needed
a more prestigious position, so they appointed him an accounting department
apprentice. He was later appointed manager of data processing.
From his first experience of selling light bulbs, Hannah developed
a state of mind that he could accomplish any goal he set and eventually
worked his way up to vice president and executive assistant to the
company president. He retired from LG&E in 1986 and said his time
there led to a variety of other things.
Hannah, a graduate of Male High School, did not neglect his education
during this time. With degrees in accounting, psychology and an MBA
from the University of Louisville, Hannah said, I have a variety
of disciplines under my belt.
by Helen E. McKinney
businessman Jim Hannah
will be honored in July at
Oldham County Day.
Around this same time, Hannah had convinced his wife, Elizabeth (Bette),
to move to the 18 Mile Creek area of Westport. After telling his wife
he had purchased a farm there, she repled, What did you do that
for? Hannah told her that he had fallen in love with the
farm idea. This stemmed from summers spent on an uncles
farm in Indiana.
What began as a weekend home only, soon turned into a permanent home
for the Hannahs. Bette quickly learned to love the farm as much
as he, and Hannah still owns 100 acres in Westport.
While taking care of their farm and holding a full time job with LG&E,
Hannah began teaching at U of L. His tenure there included teaching
computer science with the rank of adjunct professor. In 2003, he received
a Distinguished Alumnus designation from U of L. He received an honorary
doctorate from Cumberland College in 2002.
A former Oldham Countian of the Year (1988), Man of the Year
(selected by the Louisville Kiwanis Club), and Oldham County Chamber
of Commerce President (1986-1997), Hannah has been recognized as the
person responsible for guiding the Oldham County Chamber through its
growth years, expanding membership, assisting existing businesses,
attracting new businesses, instituting a business fair, and many other
Joe Schoenbaechler, current chamber president, credits Hannah with
establishing the Oldham County Educational Foundation, a fund raising
program for the counties schools, and the Oldham County Arts
Association. Hannah is still active in community projects, especially
in the economic development of Oldham and surrounding counties.
When Hannah became the chambers executive director, he assumed
leadership of a coalition of 67 businesses in a county that, at the
time, had no clear focus on how to develop new businesses. He
had the difficult task of growing an organization in a residential
community, and he helped create an atmosphere that we can now take
advantage of, said Schoenbaechler.
The key to Hannahs success with the chamber was his personable
character, said Schoenbaechler. It made him really approachable.
This quality aided Hannah in raising $10,000 in 30 days from pledges
and Oldham County Fiscal Court for the chambers Economic Development
Program during the time he ran the chamber. He raised an additional
$10,000 from 20 Oldham County companies.
Hannah seemed to have the Midas touch when it came to enticing companies
to locate in Oldham County. He is credited with bringing in businesses
such as Cracker Barrel, Hettinger & Shuck Heating and Air Conditioning
and Oldham 8 Theatres.
Always a forward thinker, he assisted in instituting an LG&E database
project to number houses for implementation of a 911 system. Wendell
Moore, the countys Judge-Executive at the time, asked Hannah
to work on this countywide dispatch system because he knew Hannah
worked for LG&E. Hes a creative person, and very energetic,
said Moore. He always had a vision for the future, especially
for a growing county like Oldham County.
In addition to his work for the chamber and LG&E, Hannah began
consulting work with several Louisville firms, which he said he still
enjoys doing. One local company, Presentations Solutions, Inc.,
benefitted greatly from his expertise.
He started off as our consultant, then became our new general
manager, said CEO Joe Powell. Powell and his mother, Carol,
run the company, and it was Carol who became acquainted with Hannah
through her involvement with the chamber and the Leadership Oldham
He left a major mark on our company, said Powell. It
was the fastest growing time in our companys history.
Powell credits Hannah with giving him the mind-set necessary to accomplish
his goal of creating his own successful business. Hannah did not just
institute a business plan but followed through to make sure Powell
would be successful. He was a sort of proud papa, said
Powell, checking back on the people he had grown. Hes
the greatest business mentor Ive ever had.
Hannah has certainly given back to the community twofold by serving
on the boards of many civic organizations, hospitals, churches and
colleges. He is currently a partner with his son-in-law, Jon Westbrook,
in W&H Properties. His vision for the county has enabled it to
grow from a primarily residential one into a viable economic center.