At age 35, University of Indianapolis alumna Molly Whitehead has helped attract more than $193 million in capital investments to Boone County in only three years as the Executive Director of the Boone County Economic Development Corp. Due to her high achievements, Whitehead was named to the 2018 edition of the Indianapolis Business Journal’s Forty Under 40.
As the executive director for the corporation, Whitehead works directly with businesses to build in the county, develop job opportunities and create a better quality of life for residents. Since being with the company, Whitehead has brought in a number of new businesses and implemented multiple different initiatives, such as coining #BetterInBoone to draw more people to the area.
Whitehead said that growing up in Boone County and having family and friends in the area has given her a personal investment in the area. Whitehead said that the development of new business in the area not only improves quality of life, but creates job opportunities to provide for people’s basic needs.
“Helping them [residents] find a job and helping them provide for their family, provide for their basic needs and hopefully the things they want as well,” Whitehead said. “Basically, it just comes down to having passion for this community and wanting it to succeed and grow and that’s really what it’s all about. Boone County, we are one of the fastest growing communities in the state of Indiana so it’s a really good opportunity to work during this fast pace time. And there’s a lot of opportunities ahead and we want to make sure that those are the right opportunities for our community.”
Whitehead began as a double major in political science and history at UIndy. She said that during her time at the university, she had no idea that she would end up becoming an economic developer and did not realize the opportunities that there are in the field.
“Like most people, [I] had no idea that economic development was a career path. It was something that I was exposed to once I started my professional career,” Whitehead said. “Being from Boone County, I obviously jumped at the opportunity when this particular position became available.”
Whitehead started her career through an internship with the Indiana Senate Majority Caucus then became a legislative assistant. After that, she became a strategic initiatives coordinator for Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, then moved to the Indiana Office of Energy Development to be its grants and finance director before setting on Boone County’s Economic Development Corp.
Whitehead said that job opportunity stuck out to her because of her dedication to her hometown.
“I had actually interviewed with this organization about a year prior to landing this job. We agreed at the time that it probably wasn’t the best fit based on what my field of interests were and what the organization needed at the time,” Whitehead said. “So when the executive director position opened up they thought of me and encouraged me to apply.”
Whitehead said that when looking into economic development as a career path, she was most interested in helping entire communities reach the quality of life and opportunity that they want and deserve.
“Working for the state government in different capacities opened my eyes to the challenges that communities around our city face every day,” Whitehead said. “Tax revenue is limited and budgets are tight. What got me interested in economic development to begin with was the opportunity to help change that. The businesses that choose to locate in a community, they pay taxes, they create jobs that pay taxes. Those people need new restaurants and they shop in local stores and that’s the source of revenue that allows us to pay for infrastructure and [provides] money to build roads and provide safe drinking water. I wanted to find a job opportunity that would make a positive impact for communities, which is how I started doing economic development at the state level to begin with.”
Director of Marketing and
Communications for the Boone County Economic Development Corporation Kim Heffner has worked with the corporation for the past year and said that Whitehead’s dedication to the community has made her a great candidate for the job.
“I think in the short time that I have been able to work with her, I have appreciated her leadership skills and how she is able to build a consensus among multiple parties and the ability to execute and find the most benefits for the community,” Heffner said
Whitehead said that her biggest push right now is for the corporation’s quality of life initiatives, which include building new and more ethnic restaurants, nature trails and other community involvement activities.
Heffner said that these initiatives are very important to the community and she has seen the community grow rapidly during her time with the corporation.
“I think the most dramatic change we’ve seen is in Whitestown. It has changed the most in the last several years. We’ll talk about remembering back when it was all just farmland and there was nothing there,” Heffner said. “I think it-and throughout the county-has grown really well with the larger projects and businesses opening in that community and having different amenities and what not. Like in Lebanon with the trails, we see an increased quality of life as well.”
Whitehead said that despite the progress that she and the corporation have made in the community, she is still dedicated to raising revenue and the quality of life in Boone County and has many projects that she will continue to promote.