The president and CEO of the OneZone Chamber of Commerce has been named Indiana Chamber Executive of the Year by the Indiana Chamber Executives Association.
Jack Russell, who was recognized during the ICEA’s annual conference held in Elkhart last month, said he is honored to have received the award, which is the top honor for an individual chamber leader in Indiana.
Russell, 32, has accelerated through the ranks and has been a visible presence at different chamber organizations within Hamilton County. At the Westfield Chamber of Commerce, Russell was the director of sales and marketing and at age 25, he was selected to lead the organization.
During his stint as the top leader at the Westfield chamber, he managed to double the overall membership to more than 400 members before joining OneZone as chief executive officer in 2018.
Russell served as OneZone’s interim president in 2020 during the pandemic for three months before being named president in June of that year. He said he and his staff navigated the pandemic by developing new ideas and initiatives to support local businesses.
“During that time, it was an opportunity for me and my team to look at, ‘What do we want to be and how do we adapt for businesses and really how do we stay relevant?’ And so we began to create a small business hub, we created a supplier diversity program and we really honed in on creating the first-ever within our organization women’s group,” he said.
The OneZone Chamber was also recognized by the ICEA with two Innovative Excellence awards for its work on the supplier diversity program and small business roundtables. It also placed in the top three in this year’s Chamber of the Year recognition at the conference.
Russell also remains committed to supporting the needs of businesses while developing new programs and initiatives, noting that the chamber has strong working relationships with the cities of Carmel and Fishers.
“We try to make sure we’re strong advocates for businesses and I think that goes a long way for our businesses as well,” Russell said.
Other individuals have also noted Russell’s work in the chamber industry, in addition to his enthusiasm and ability to work with those around him.
“This award is a tribute to Jack’s passion for the community he serves and the profession that he loves,” said Shelli Williams, president of the ICEA. “Jack always shares so much energy and out-of-the-box thinking that he naturally draws his peers to learn toward him for professional advice.”
Steve Latour, CEO of the Westfield Chamber of Commerce, nominated Russell for the award, describing him in a nomination letter as “a man with significant impact who leads with integrity, appropriately challenges the process, is a true collaborator, and is results-focused.”
“I have seen Jack interact with colleagues, board members, citizens and elected leaders engage in challenging conversations, coach, mentor and lead,” Latour said.
But Russell is quick to note that he isn’t the only one playing a role in the chamber’s success and gave credit to his staff. Those individuals, he said, work tirelessly on programs and initiatives that the chamber has for its 1,300 members.
“Without my team, this whole organization wouldn’t be possible,” he said.
Russell said among the benefits of being a chamber member is the ability to connect with other businesses. Chamber events can range from 50 people up to 700 people, he said.
“A lot of times for any business, making one great connection is what can change your business, whether you’re a micro-business, one-stop shop person all the way up to a larger corporation, and I would say a majority of what we do does not cost any money, ” he said.
Russell also said continued growth in Carmel and Fishers is exciting to see and noted the chamber is a great partner with both cities to help small and large businesses.
“We know we have to match the energy our cities bring and that’s important,” he said.
Still, Russell said he remains focused on advocating for businesses of all sizes and supporting their needs. One of his passions is to serve people, he added.
“The core of who we are (as a chamber) and what we do at OneZone are our members,” Russell said. “We do a great job of being a voice in the business community in Hamilton County and our region.”