From the craziness of operating in sports arenas to the gentler ebb and flow of the airport environment, Jay Hackett is finding solace in his new role as general manager of Areas’ operations at Minneapolis St-Paul International Airport (MSP).
Jay manages all of Areas’ 11 existing venues at MSP and two more that will open next year. He also leads the 30-person management team and 250 hourly associates in addition to the operational and financial aspects of the operation. Areas’ MSP restaurants include People’s Organic, Blue Door Pub, The Cook & the Ox, and Hi-Lo Diner.
Growing up, Jay’s dad was a coach and athletic director for various universities. As a result, Jay’s family moved every few years and at one point, he thought he wanted to settle down in one location but soon discovered that he thrived on variety and change. He got his start in sports arenas while a senior in college, interning for the company Centerplate. By the time he graduated, Jay was offered the role of warehouse manager in Kansas City where he worked his way to become the youngest general manager in the company at 24 years old.
After a few years with the Kansas City Royals and the Chiefs, Jay moved on to Churchill Downs, the legendary racetrack. It was a job with the Timberwolves that brought him and his family to Minnesota where they have resided for the past eight years – the longest stretch he’s lived in one place during his entire life.
After years of depending upon the success of sports teams and special events to reach annual financial targets, Jay answered a call that took him on a different career trajectory. “In all the years I traveled, I never once thought about what it would take to work in an airport,” says Jay. But he found the airport environment to be much less stressful. “I don’t have to count on a winning team to draw a crowd to the arena. The pace is much more manageable, which is better for me, and for my family.”
The father of four, ages 8 to 11, Jay’s evenings are a whirlwind of scheduled coordination ensuring everyone is where they need to be, whether it’s swimming, basketball or hockey practice. Jay learned the art of baking from his grandmother and enjoys what he calls “creating in the kitchen,” where he tries out new recipes for a variety of breads and rolls. Jay’s creativity isn’t limited to the kitchen – he’s a talented woodworker who enjoys working with his hands and building things.
Jay says he is settling into his new role and enjoying becoming more familiar with his team and the MSP operations. “As the General Manager, I have a lot of people counting on my leadership and I am excited about the opportunity to mentor others and help them with their personal and professional development goals. We have a great team of employees working together to focus on the customer.”
Always a strategist, Jay is planning small changes to make a big difference over time. “My mission while at MSP is to create the best hospitality experience for all of our guests that enter the airport.”