Governor offers surprise at Ignite the Region luncheon • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine
Gov. Eric Holcomb and Heather Ennis

Governor offers surprise at Ignite the Region luncheon

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Gov. Eric Holcomb was the guest of honor at the Ignite the Region luncheon Oct. 24, but he surprised everyone — especially Heather Ennis.

Holcomb was on hand to talk about regional economic development spurred by the $50 million in the first round of Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative grants.

Ennis, the Northwest Indiana Forum's president and CEO, spoke first about a new regional marketing plan “GO NWI.” She also laid out a framework of initiatives for the next five years of Ignite the Region.

“Northwest Indiana truly is creating greater opportunities,” she said.

Then she asked the crowd of about 600 guests to become involved.

“We welcome you all to join the movement,” she said.

Next, the governor crossed the stage and sat in a comfy chair for a conversation with Ennis.

He focused on community development, and the way the different economic “pieces” are “being snapped together.” He used this metaphor throughout his discussion with Ennis to describe the importance of regional cohesiveness and working together to build the Region, the state and the country. He said the pieces are there, it's just a matter of making them fit together.

“We're just trying to snap the pieces with you,” he said.

He and Ennis kidded about the $75 million the Forum is asking for in round two of the READI program.

But Ennis was serious when she thanked the governor for helping to bring “Indiana to the world” and the “world to Indiana.”

“You can't grow alone,” she said.

The governor also pointed out that the Region now has the “power to be selective” rather than taking whatever projects come along.

“What we want might not be what we need,” he said.

Indiana's regional approach is what sets it apart from other states, he said. He stressed that collaboration is key.

“We're stronger when we're more diversified,” he said.

The governor was tight lipped about any future plans, except that he would be on a tear the next 14 months before his term is up.

And then he proved himself right by awarding Ennis a Sagamore of the Wabash Award. The crowd took a deep breath, like no one knew what had just happened — Ennis, too.

And then the mic turned off and the pictures began.

Note: The Sagamore of the Wabash is one of the highest distinctions in the state of Indiana, reserved for those who have made significant and lasting impacts on the state and its communities.

Caption: Gov. Eric Holcomb awards NWI Forum President and CEO Heather Ennis a Sagamore of the Wabash Award during the Ignite the Region luncheon Oct. 24 at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City. (Provided by NWI Forum)

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