Indiana Chamber Honors Excellence at Annual Awards Dinner, Elects Fort Wayne Attorney as New Board Chairman

(INDIANAPOLIS) The best in Hoosier business, government, and community were celebrated tonight at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 30th Annual Awards Dinner. The honorees, who all took the stage at the Indiana Convention Center, were previously announced in September.

Chuch Surack

Fort Wayne’s Chuck Surack, Sweetwater Sound founder and CEO, is the Ogletree Deakins Business Leader of the Year. Surack leads the largest online retailer of music instruments and technology in the country. This year, more than 1,800 employees will contribute to more than $800 million in business, continuing an annual trend of 20%-plus growth.

Gov. Eric Holcomb

The Birch Bayh-Richard Lugar Government Leader of the Year is Gov. Eric Holcomb, who continues to aggressively push his Next Level policy agenda through the Indiana General Assembly. His priorities include expanded workforce training opportunities, dealing with the opioid crisis and making Indiana as competitive as possible for talent and business location/expansion.

John Thompson

John Thompson, owner of four Indianapolis-based businesses, is the Dynamic Leader of the Year. The first business he started was Thompson Distribution and the largest is First Electric Supply. He is also a mentor to many, investor in a variety of ventures and the longest-serving board member of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

The Republic Airways and LIFT Academy Community of the Year is Plymouth, which is home to several strong industrial businesses in the process of expanding their footprint. The public and private sector is working together to offer high quality education and cultural amenities, creating a strong quality of life for all residents.

“We are thrilled to recognize each of these honorees for their tremendous efforts in making Indiana a better place to live and work. They have allowed their passions to drive them to great heights and their achievements will continue to impact our state for years to come,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Earlier in the day, the Indiana Chamber held its fall board meeting, where Fort Wayne attorney Tim Haffner was welcomed as the new chairman of the board of directors. He joined the board in 2006.

Haffner, who will serve a one-year term as board chair, is a partner at Faegre Baker Daniels where he is a corporate and commercial lawyer.

“Tim is an excellent advocate for Northeast Indiana and has a passion for policy – both at the local and state level. He’s a very thoughtful leader who cares very deeply for Indiana. We are very excited to have him as our volunteer leader for the next year, ” Brinegar offers. 

More information – including a press release, BizVoice® magazine story and award video – is available for each honoree at

The dinner – presented by Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield – featured guest speakers Donna Brazile and Dana Perino of Fox News.

Earlier today, the Indiana Chamber also honored three Volunteers of the Year during a luncheon: Larry Gigerich, executive managing director at Ginovus; Donna Niesen, partner at Katz, Sapper & Miller; and Casey Stanley, vice president of marketing and business development at Ontario Systems.

The Annual Awards Dinner’s opening reception sponsor was PNC. The speaker sponsor was OneAmerica. Corporate sponsors were AT&T Indiana, CBRE, French Lick Resort, NIPSCO, Tilson and Zimmer Biomet.

Contributing sponsors were AECOM Hunt; Community Health Network; Corteva Agriscience; Eskenazi Health Foundation; Fineline Printing Group; IGT Indiana; Indiana Soybean Alliance/Indiana Corn Marketing Council; Indiana Wesleyan University; Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick; KERAMIDA Inc.; Markey’s Rental & Staging; MCM CPAs & Advisors; Pacers Sports & Entertainment; Plymouth Foundry, Inc.; Roche Diagnostics Corporation; Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.; The Kroger Co.; UPS; Vectren, A CenterPoint Energy Company; WFYI Productions; and WGU Indiana.