Fishers’ businessman Tom O’Neil has been called a trailblazer for his work in the Hispanic business community. From spearheading the Hispanic Business Council, to assisting development of a scholarship fund for Hispanic children to co-founding the first Indianapolis Latino Expo, his work has been transformative.
“There is certainly a better understanding of the size and scope of the Hispanic business community because of the work through the Business Council, which formed in the early 2000s as part of the IndyChamber,” said O’Neil, CEO and chairman of Officeworks. “Our group of Hispanic business owners stepped up, and our goal was to make Main Street aware of Hispanic businesses that were small and wanted to grow, and vice versa.”
O’Neil said it has become a model for other cities.
“I know after we started the council, there were a handful of other cities that followed suit,” he said. “It is certainly a partnership that has endured, and it has been a win-win for both sides to create that awareness, which in turn will create opportunities for both sides.”
His passion for improving the community comes from knowing that the “stronger the whole community, from minority to majority, the healthier the environment is for everyone,” he said.
“If you get too narrow in your focus, there are certain segments left out,” O’Neil said. “We want to be able to create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and be sustainable, and I think that helps everyone in the long run.”
That is why he believes Hispanic Heritage Month is so important.
“It makes the rest of the population aware of the Hispanic heritage, culture and business opportunities,” O’Neil said. “At the same time, months such as Hispanic Heritage Month help others become aware of cultures in their midst, which strengthens the entire community.”
O’Neil also was a key player in a study that looked at the economic impacts and needs of Hispanic businesses in the area
“It reinforced what we already thought, especially that minority businesses have a lack of access to resources like capital, marketing and certain technologies other companies may take for granted,” O’Neil said. “The study reinforced those needs, and we worked to help those Hispanic businesses grow by making resources accessible to them.”
As for the future, O’Neil is excited to watch the “great work” being done by the Indiana Latino Institute’s Leadership Circle.
“It’s a leadership training program for emerging young Hispanic leaders, and they have terrific programming and great facilitators,” O’Neil said. “This has been a successful program. To me, that’s been one of the most exciting programs to watch develop from all their activity.”