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Fargo native competing on 'The Apprentice'

Fargo-born Wade Hanson is among the 16 contestants competing on this season of "The Apprentice." Special to The Forum


What: "The Apprentice"

When: 9 tonight

Channel: NBC (Channel 11 in Fargo)

"The Apprentice" - a show known for brutal competition and Machiavellian machinations - will get a dose of "Minnesota nice" this season.

Or make that: "Pitbullishly-determined-but-still-Minnesota-nice."

Fargo-born Wade Hanson will be one of 16 contestants on this season's "Apprentice," which stars real estate magnate Donald Trump.

This season focuses on promising young professionals who were hit hard by the economic downturn.

At one point, the 33-year-old Hanson was heralded as one of the best young real estate agents in the country. Then the recession hit.

The downturn not only affected his career as a real estate broker, but also his numerous investments. "I've had to work twice as hard to get half the result," he told The Forum.

Hanson has experienced other hardships as well, including the suicide of his sister Susie 10 years ago.

But Hanson says he's not a quitter. "I have a no-nonsense, no-excuses attitude," he says. "I made the decision to be involved in real estate, and I'm willing to accept the fact that my investments are down."

Although Wade hasn't lived in Fargo since he was 3 or 4, he and his family return here often. They come to visit his parents, Brian and Jayne, who now live and work in Fargo. Brian and Jayne both graduated from Fargo North and North Dakota State University. Wade's older brother, Brent, graduated from Concordia College. And they still have other relatives here.

Brian Hanson says he could sense his middle son's determination from an early age.

"I wouldn't want to be in competition with him on 'The Apprentice,' " Brian says with a chuckle. "He is very motivated."

Wade Hanson remembers chomping at the bit to get his first job at age 13: fueling up boats and cleaning fish at a Leech Lake resort. "It's just in my blood. Maybe it's just a Hanson thing. We're very, very competitive, very determined and very focused."

That steely determination is one reason Wade dropped out of college at age 21 to sell real estate. In just a few years, he built and sold a $60 million real estate firm, was named one of Realtor magazine's "Top 30 Under 30" and developed into a paradigm for online real estate marketing.

Hanson now sells luxury properties and offers coaching, consulting and public-speaking services through his website,

Hanson says he contacted "Apprentice" producers last spring, mainly because he wanted a chance to work with Trump's organization. "I didn't go on the show to impress America or to become a reality-show celebrity, so the fact that America was watching didn't concern me," he says.

Once there, Hanson says the pace and difficulty of the challenges made it easy to forget about the ubiquitous cameras. "If you're worried about the cameras, you're going to forget about the task at hand," he says.

Hanson found Trump to be every bit as tough as he'd imagined, although he admired the real estate magnate's relationship with his children, Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric. "A lot of people don't realize what a fine father he is. You can tell (his kids) have had to work hard for everything they've had," he says.

The competition among contestants seemed especially fierce, possibly because all had so much to lose. He expects more tension to arise as the show airs and people learn what others said about them. "To say we're all best friends would be a stretch, but we'll probably keep in touch," he says.

Even in this televised shark tank, Hanson established himself as a positive force. A recent article in OK magazine dubbed him "The Optimist."

"I always try to focus on the positive," he says. "There's so much bad stuff going on in the world that you have to take the opportunity to focus on the good things that are happening."

The show's premiere, at 9 tonight, will coincide with another milestone in Hanson's life. Starting today, Hanson has launched a drive to sell 60 homes in 60 days. He will then donate $1,000 of each commission to raise funds and awareness for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The fundraising effort is a tribute to Susie. That makes his parents proud.

"While we're very proud of Wayne for making it on 'The Apprentice,' " Brian says, "we're moreso proud that he's doing this to carry on the cause for our family."