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Community Spotlight: All About Heather Ennis

Never say, that’s not my job.  Figure out a way to get things done and add value.”

Heather Ennis

Pass the Torch strives to support women, families, and economies through mentorship and leadership development. Heather Ennis, President & CEO at Northwest Indiana Forum, shares her powerful journey and wisdom that led to her receiving an Indiana 250 Honoree title. Read below to find out more!

Q: Where does your passion stem from as it pertains to the work that you do and the values in which you lead?

Heather: My passion for community building was instilled in me by my parents.  My father has been a community attorney for the last 60 years.  He served as town, school board, and local commuter rail district attorney as well as general counsel to many community members on matters of estate and general law.  My mother was a very successful realtor but her true passion was servant leadership.  She volunteered 5-6 days a week at our church, helped tutor reading classes in the school system, and taught reading as a second language through the library adult education system. She always had time to help others and there was always room at her table for one more.

Q: Who has served as a hero in your life, and how have they inspired you throughout your career?

Heather: Both of my parents are my heroes. My dad has a keen business sense and knows how to put a plan together and put it into action. My mom was an eternal optimist always finding the good in people and situations.

Q:What does being recognized as an Indiana 250 mean to you, and how will this honor help you pass your torch to others in the community?

Heather: I am humbled to be part of the Indiana 250.  It is a fabulous group of outstanding leaders.  I did not get here alone, the work I am recognized for is done in partnership with many other stakeholders in the community.  I am blessed to work with so many who believe in the future of Northwest Indiana and are willing to work hard to make it happen. 

Q: How do you see Pass the Torch impacting your community over the next three years as we begin this partnership?

Heather: We can continue to create a community that wants to lift each other up and learn from each other. 

Q: How do you see mentorship playing a role as a catalyst for economic development and community impact, specifically for women, across the state of Indiana?

Heather: It used to be economic development was a male-dominated field.  The tides have turned in the last decade or so thanks to many women who came before us and found a seat at the table.  Through their mentorship, our ranks have grown in number and volume.  I know just as many women in the economic development arena as I do men. I think it is important for all people to be engaged in economic development.  Economic development should happen with you not to you and the more we can diversify the input in our process the better the outcomes will be for the entire community.  I would love to continue to encourage greater participation, none of us have all of the answers. 

Q: Please share any success stories that you have experienced as a mentor and/or mentee throughout your career.

Heather: I am the first woman President/CEO of my 44-year-old organization, I am also the first leader who was under 50 when offered the job. Lucky for me there were some wonderful women and men mentors on my board and in my network or I would have gotten eaten alive, as a matter of fact, I almost did.  These leaders stood by me and defended me as well as coached me and helped me grow in my leadership.  I have learned much from the people who tried to tear me down as well.  I learned how to be more assertive, that not everything is personal and you can change the world, and some people’s minds, if you keep trying. 

Q: When you think about your legacy, what are three things that come to mind? How do you choose to pass the torch for women?

Heather: Building a group driving positive outcomes for our region.  Inspiring others to dream big. Having fun.

Q: What would you say to community members who are looking to lead the next great initiative in the state?

Heather: Dream big and remember the Margaret Mead quote, “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.  In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.

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