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Growing Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance names new board chair

Erik Hanson says that the growth of the LWRBA and affordable housing are two priorities for the board in 2023.

Outgoing Chair Allison Imre hands over the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance gavel to new Board Chair Erik Hanson.
Outgoing Chair Allison Imre hands over the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance gavel to new Board Chair Erik Hanson.
Photo by Jay Heater
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As the new board chair for the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, Erik Hanson gave an interesting description of his job, which is basically to help Executive Director/CEO Brittany Lamont succeed.

"As board members, we kind of set up the bowing alley bumpers," said Hanson, who was announced as the new chair on Jan. 27 at the Grove in Lakewood Ranch.

He called himself, as chair, the organization's bellwether (the lead sheep of the flock with a bell around its neck) whose main duty is to "be engaged."

When the board comes up with ideas and suggestions, he said Lamont takes over.

"We have a fantastic CEO who was brought in here with the right knowledge and skillset," he said.

Erik Hanson, the new chair of the board for the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, addresses the crowd at the Grove in Lakewood Ranch.
Photo by Jay Heater

Hanson, a construction law attorney for Shutts and Bowen of Sarasota, certainly was understating his role.

The alliance added 210 new members in 2022 alone and one of Hanson's main tasks will be to implement strategies that will continue to grow the nonprofit, which currently has just over 600 members.

In 2022, the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance hosted 75 events to bring its members together with each other and the community.

As outgoing Board Chair Allison Imre, the CEO and owner of Grapevine Communications, said while passing the huge "gavel" to Hanson at the Grove, "We are devising new ways to turn on lights."

Imre said Hanson is the perfect guy to move the alliance forward.

"This is the guy who will make you like lawyers more," Imre said.

It was an emotional event for Imre, who completed her run as board chair by addressing a sold-out crowd of 300.

"I have two goals, not to cry and not to swear," Imre said to begin her final address as board chair.

She accomplished neither, to the members' delight.

"We are relevant in ways we never have been before," she said before Hanson took the podium. "We have a new website and a new database."

Hanson said increasing the alliance's social media presence would be one of the board's goals in 2023.

"We can showcase our members," he said.

Kristie O'Kon receives the Chairman’s Award from outgoing board chair Allison Imre at the Grove.
Photo by Jay Heater

Another goal, he said, would be to "be the tip of the spear in the affordable housing discussion."

"Everyone is having the same problem," he said. "The cost of living here is a roadblock to hiring."

Hanson joined the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance in 2013 after attending an alliance luncheon at the Polo Grill and Bar (now Grove).

He said Lori Ruth, the East County Observer's associate publisher and then a LWRBA board member, made a huge first impression on him.

"She put her hand out and said, 'Hi, I am Lori Ruth. What can I do for you.'"

While seemingly a simple statement, Hanson said he set his course immediately to join the organization.

"It stuck with me," said Hanson, who then worked for Norton Hammersley. "This group was not focused on itself, but what it could do for others. It was so beautiful and eloquent. 'Who can I connect you with?' It was all about community, and I wanted to be part of it." 

He became a major part of the alliance despite being married and having, what is now, three children. Hanson and his wife Sarah have 8-year-old Ellie, 6-year-old Emma and 22-month-old Evie.

"At certain times, I am sure Sarah wishes I was home," Hanson said. "But she realizes the good in this."

Hanson was in line to become the board chair in 2022, but Evie had just come along.

"We are on solid footing now," he said.

Hanson said he has taken over as board chair with the nonprofit, now in its 18th year, running smoothly.

"Our leadership last year was absolutely phenomenal," he said.

Also at the LWRBA luncheon Jan. 27, Kristie O'Kon of Grapevine Communications received the Chairman's Award for her support of Imre during 2022.

Imre said O'Kon had the confidence to call her out if she began to go off course in terms of the alliance's mission. She also said O'Kon would step forward if she needed to run home due to family responsibilities.

O'Kon, in turn, said she admires Imre.

"I have had the opportunity to work for someone I truly admire," O'Kon said of Imre. "I never have worked for such a powerful, sincere, genuinely kind person. As much as I life her up, she has done as much, if not more, for me."



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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