Since 1952, H. J. Russell & Company’s commitment to strengthening America’s foundation through entrepreneurship, empowerment and excellence has propelled the company to legendary success. These same principles and values will continue to guide the company into the next 60 years of exceptional service to its clients, genuine commitment to its associates and caring support for the communities in which we live and work.
AGAINST ALL ODDS
The Great Depression heavily influenced company founder, Herman J. Russell (1930-2014). Because jobs were scarce, at the age of 8, he decided to become his own boss and create his own jobs (neighborhood handyman, newspaper deliverer) and continued in that entrepreneurial mindset his entire life. His role model was his father who owned his own plastering business. With the skills his father taught him, he, with the help of friends, built a duplex on a vacant lot he had saved up to purchase. He saved up enough rental income from that duplex to pay for his college education at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he earned his degree in building construction in 1952 and worked as a subcontractor with his brother Roger Russell assisting. This was also the year that Herman founded H. J. Russell Plastering Company in Atlanta, which would later become H. J. Russell & Company. Herman’s drive, tenacity and vision carry on throughout the company today.
The decade of the 1960s was important for both the United States and H. J. Russell & Company. While African-American leaders were waging war for Civil Rights throughout the southern U.S., Herman began his first major project, a development of 12 residential units on South Avenue in Atlanta. A few years later, government programs designed to spur residential construction, particularly in the South, provided the opportunities that made H. J. Russell & Company one of the largest builders of HUD affordable housing. To this day, the company remains a leader in building and managing affordable housing to citizens in the southeast.
As the nation’s business environment shifted, so did the company. Watergate, oil shortages and declining real estate markets created uncertainty in every area of the nation. Real estate and property development had always been at the core of the Russell companies, but the unpredictable real estate market created enough concern for the company to look at other areas. While prestigious construction jobs remained at the heart of their activities, diversification was critical to its stability. From founding a beverage distributor company and having a majority share in a company that owned a television station in Macon, Ga., to establishing airport concessionaire Concessions International, LLC to being a part of the Omni Group which purchased two major professional sports franchises, diversification was the focus of the decade. Today, the various organizations that are operated and controlled by the Russell family include Concessions International, Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Russell Family Enterprises, LLC, and Russell New Urban Development, LLC.
BOOM TOWN, BOOM COMPANY
The previous decade’s introduction of the requirement of including minority-owned subcontractors with companies seeking city contracts resulted in a new decade of continued growth and the recognition of the visionary leadership of Herman J. Russell in Atlanta and beyond. Not only did the firm receive company and leadership awards and recognitions by various organizations and institutions in Atlanta, the company’s Project Management division set up offices in Birmingham, AL and expanded its headquarters to more than 42,000 square feet in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood of Atlanta. Today, the former headquarters location for H. J. Russell & Company is becoming the Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship in recognition of the founder’s entrepreneurial spirit and desire to give back.
This was the decade that began with a grand announcement that Atlanta would be the site of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. The city rejoiced and many Atlanta businesses, including H. J. Russell & Company, went to work getting ready for the international event. Ironically, the decision was to locate the Olympic stadium in the Summerhill neighborhood in Southeast Atlanta, the very same neighborhood in which H. J. Russell had grown up. The company’s leadership was shifting too, placing his capable children H. Jerome, Michael and Donata to significant leadership positions as H. J. Russell announced his retirement was imminent. He retired twice – once in 1996 and the last time in 2003. Today, the experience the firm had in building the Olympic stadium has contributed to the building of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium positioned halfway between the company’s old and new headquarters location.
REACHING OUT, REACHING HIGHER
Under the leadership of the Russell siblings, the first decade of the new millennium started with a bang. The firm has landed several key projects, and the patriarch decided to “semi-retire.” However, before doing so, H. J. developed the ambitious, mixed-use $300 million development in Castleberry Hill. In 2001, he continued his personal investment in the revitalization investment of his company’s neighborhood, including construction of The Castleberry Inn (now the Clarion Inn & Suites Atlanta Downtown), Legacy Lofts, Intown Lofts, and Paschal’s Restaurant.
Herman J. Russell nurtured his children, H. Jerome, Donata, and Michael, to carry on his vision: stay focused, be committed, continue to develop expertise, and remain on the cutting edge with the best technology and human talent to meet the changing needs of both business and society. The company’s Construction, Program Management, Property Management and Real Estate Development divisions, along with Concessions International, LLC, Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Russell Family Enterprises, LLC and H. J. Russell Foundation, are all built on a legacy of the company’s founder and are being elevated to the next level by the visions of the new generation.