Solid roots: JSM co-founder helped build family business

Solid roots: JSM co-founder helped build family business

CHAMPAIGN — This year's Parkland College Foundation Entrepreneur of the Year has been in the real-estate business most of his life, but almost ended up selling flowers.

"My father and both brothers ended up getting degrees in ornamental horticulture," said Jeff Hartman, co-founder of JSM companies. "Dad wanted to become a florist and then after the war realized that money wasn't in being a florist."

Instead, his father, Lyon Hartman, entered the construction business.

"There was so much expansion going on after the war," he said. "So he realized he'd better become a builder and did. And that's probably a good thing, or I'd be running a flower shop."

Hartman will receive the V. Dale Cozad Entrepreneur of the Year Award this Tuesday at the eighth annual Entrepreneur of the Year Banquet, an annual fundraiser for the Parkland College Entrepreneurial Program.

JSM was technically formed in 1974 by Jeff Hartman with his brothers Stephen and Michael, but has its roots in their father's construction business.

"He developed a 24-unit efficiency building that was well received by the market," Hartman said.

JSM now manages more than 1,600 campus-area apartments and leases space to 91 businesses in some of the busiest locations in Campustown, including the TownePlace Suites complex and the building on Green Street where Panera is located.

"Jeff Hartman is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word. He and his family ... have grown the business from building apartment buildings to managing a portfolio of apartments, office buildings and retail centers," Parkland President Tom Ramage said in an emailed statement. "JSM takes pride in the construction and maintenance of their properties which have helped the company create and maintain an excellent reputation."

Hartman attended Southern Illinois University, Parkland College and the University of Illinois for business, though he never graduated.

"I wouldn't say I was an extremely good student, though I really think I could have been. I was really good at math," Hartman said.

But Hartman says the key to being an entrepreneur isn't something you learn in school.

"It's the standard stuff," he said. "You're working hard. You're not allowing things to not work out. A little luck doesn't hurt. And being strong in several areas is very important."

Greg Cozad, son of V. Dale Cozad, said Hartman has improved the community with his properties.

"Jeff's an outstanding business man, a great family man, and has added to the value of the community with the quality of his developments," Cozad said.

JSM chooses its locations carefully, Hartman said, and is committed to keeping them up to date.

"We spend an awful lot of money redoing our apartments and making sure that we have as much of a competitive advantage as there can be," he said.

Upon learning he's this year's awardee, Hartman said it's "quite the honor."

"When you stop to think about the other recipients in years past, I'm not sure I'm really in that group, quite honestly," he said. "But it's certainly nice to have JSM companies be recognized, and that's how I perceive it."

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