Ingram earns prestigious Athena Award

Published 9:36 pm Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Doni Ingram, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), was honored Nov. 4 as the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce’s first Athena Award recipient.

The award was presented to Ingram, who lives in Troy, at the Women in Business Forum’s Annual Gathering at Wynlakes Golf and Country Club.

The internationally recognized Athena Award is presented annually by chambers of commerce, women’s organizations and universities.

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Athena Award recipients are individuals who demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession and provide valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community. The award also recognizes those who actively assist women in realizing their full leadership potential.

Ingram said she was honored to receive the prestigious award, especially since this was the first time the Montgomery Chamber has given the award.

“I had no idea that I would win the award but I was very honored,” Ingram said. “The award is kind of like the culmination of 31 years in the business.”

Ingram said that if she had to choose one achievement that would define her career it would be serving on the Governor’s Cabinet.

“There’s nothing much better that I could have achieved,” she said. “When Gov. Riley goes out of office, I’m going to retire so it’s also a recognition of my work in Pike and Crenshaw counties.”

Ingram led the chambers of commerce in both counties and takes pride in having created nearly 3,000 total jobs in the two counties, 1,597 in Crenshaw County and 1,250 in Pike.

“I believe that my role at ADECA is basically the same was it was with the chambers of commerce,” she said. “At ADECA, we touch the lives of all the people of Alabama. At the chambers of commerce, we touched the lives of the citizens in the areas we served. I don’t know of anything more important than that.”

Ingram said being nominated for the Athena Award required that she sit down and go back over the 31 years she has been a leader in the business profession.

“Going back through years of newspaper clippings and documents and putting it all together was really enjoyable,” she said. “It was an opportunity to remember those I have worked with over the years and some of them are gone. When I finished, I kept a copy and I’m going to make copies for my grandchildren. It was good to look back and remember.”

Ingram’s backward glace provided her with a resume that would qualify her for hundreds of executive positions.

From 1979 until 1989, she organized and established the Pike County Chamber of Commerce and served as its first executive director. During that time, the Chamber recruited 10 new industries and expanded 15 existing industries. In 1979, the Chamber’s annual budget was $11,000 but expanded to $150,000 by 1989.

From 1990 through1995, Ingram consulted under contract with Auburn University, the City of Luverne/Crenshaw County, the city of Butler and other small communities to train local leaders on community and economic development. During that time, Ingram, served as the project manager for Sister Schubert Homemade Rolls bakery project. Her responsibilities included site selection, site development and financial packaging. The company is now a multi-million dollar facility. She organized and established the Crenshaw County Economic and Industrial Development Authority and served as its first executive director. During 1996-2006, Crenshaw County recruited 1597 new jobs with a $31.9 million annual payroll. Five of the new industries were international companies. In 2006, Ingram was appointed assistant director of ADECA by Gov. Bob Riley. Shortly afterwards, she stepped in as acting director for four months during the director’s leave of absence and was appointed director in June 2009. As director her responsibilities include management of an annual budget of $250 million and more than $150 million in American Recovery and Readjustment Act funds. ADECA is responsible for federal and state grant administration for 46 grant programs covering community infrastructure, law enforcement, water resources, energy and surplus property.”

With a resume like that, the world will likely come knocking at her door, but Ingram will turn a deaf ear. She plans to travel with her husband, Charles, of 46 years and spend the rest of the time with her children and grandchildren. “I call the Athena Award, my ‘Oscar,’ because it looks so much like one,” she said. “I don’t think I can top that. It will be time to do other things.”