In 2018, the Northwest Indiana Forum team put into place pillars to strengthen the region’s economic development plan. The “Ignite the Region: A Regional Strategy for Economic Transformation” not only outlined ideas toward prosperous growth, but also united efforts of region partners and stakeholders.

“With our entrepreneurship and innovation pillar, we have a huge opportunity to grow from an economic standpoint,” says NWI Forum President and CEO Heather Ennis.

The not-for-profit continues to serve the seven-county region as an economic development organization focused on investment, retention, engagement and positivity. The team promotes policies, attracts site selectors, markets opportunities, connects partners and builds resources for entrepreneurs and innovators. Through grants and membership contributions, the organization strives to directly impact the region’s future.

“For so long, there was a pull yourself up by your bootstraps, failure is not an option mentality,” she says. “We are working toward an entrepreneurial mindset that creates the perpetual motion that is needed in order to continue to be relevant in the fast-moving economy that we see today.”

Ennis honed her economic development mindset as the previous president of the Duneland Chamber of Commerce and the Duneland Economic Development Company. She also has served as a member of the Porter County Economic Development Alliance and the Porter County Jobs Cabinet as well as on the Regional Development Company’s board of directors. Currently, she serves as chair of the Indiana Economic Development Association Board as its legislative chair.

After seeing the business world through the manufacturing arena at the beginning stages of her career, Ennis’ view was redirected to the contributions of small businesses through her roles.

“The opportunity for growth and dynamic change happens through the entrepreneurial and innovation process,” she says.

While COVID has created a new way of doing business for the NWI Forum team, attracting and retaining businesses remains the main goal.

“We have had to shift but necessity is the mother of all invention and we have pivoted how we communicate,” she says. “We have moved to virtual site selections, conferences and educational series. We also continue to showcase what is going on with the ever-changing rules and regulations as well as the opportunities for help and aid that are out there in these unprecedented times.

“There is still activity happening and we are being creative on how to work with companies as information changes every day.”


Northwest Indiana Forum

6100 Southport Road in Portage