Liz Hartmann has a bachelor’s degree in international studies and sustainability from Miami University in Ohio. She has worked four years with the “Big Four” accounting firm Deloitte’s strategy and operations division, helping with mergers and acquisitions in the health care and pharmaceutical industries.
Hartmann just wrapped up two months working as the Golden Triangle Development LINK strategy fellow as a part of her MBA program at the prestigious Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago.
In other words, Hartmann, 27, is a problem-solver.
“I guess that would be the simplest way to describe it,” Hartmann said. “I’ve always loved problems and loved solving problems. That’s what consulting is all about, and that’s why working here at the LINK this summer was such a great experience for me.”
Hartmann’s internship in Columbus — which ended Thursday — has been a testament to her passion and proficiency in problem-solving from the start.
The first problem she faced was convincing LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins to provide her an internship that didn’t exist, then define and execute a program for the internship.
While some summer interns make copies and coffee, Hartmann researched and developed a guide the LINK can use to recruit businesses to the Golden Triangle by highlighting all the area has to offer.
From day one, Higgins said, Hartmann impressed.
“You watch her,” he said. “When something comes up, the wheels start turning. She’ll say, ‘What about this?’ or ‘What if we did this?’ From the very first time we met with her, she jumped right in.”
The Columbus Connection
Hartmann grew up in a military family, moving frequently. She went to high school in Germany and England, then to Ohio, where she enrolled at nearby Miami University.
One of the earlier stops included Columbus Air Force Base.
“I was very young, pre-school age, so I didn’t remember much about Columbus,” she said.
Her parents — Senior Master Sgt. Mark Hartmann and Chief Master Sgt. Terri Hartmann — retired three years ago after their last assignment at CAFB. They chose to stay in the area and now live in Caledonia.
In 2016, Hartmann was living in New York, working for DeLoitte and planning to enrolling in the MBA program at Northwestern.
“I knew I had a summer off and a lot of people choose to try something new to see if they like it,” Hartmann said. “But I wanted to use my skill-set.”
By happenstance, she got a call from her mom one day.
“She said, ‘We’re on TV!'” Hartmann said. “I didn’t know what she was talking about. She told me to watch ’60 Minutes.'”
The 60 Minutes program that aired on CBS included a segment on Higgins’ work with the LINK.
Hartmann kept that in mind as she finished her first year in the MBA program. When it came time to put her plans together for the summer, she reached out to Higgins through email.
“I … told him I was writing from Northwestern and explained how my parents moved in the community and mentioned that I was doing my MBA and was really interested in talking to him about the challenges there and to see if there was any way I could help,” she recalled. “He said, ‘When you’re in the area, come by and we’ll chat.'”
During her trip to Columbus around Easter, Hartmann took Higgins up on the offer, although she wasn’t sure what would come of it.
“I didn’t know it was an interview,” she said. “I thought it was just going to be a networking opportunity. When I got there, the whole office was there — Joe, the vice presidents, the programs director, the projects director, everybody. It was a conversation, and I was right in the thick of it and I loved it.
“What I thought would be a 30-minute meeting lasted three hours,” she added. “As I was walking out, (Higgins) took me around the offices and said, ‘This could be your office if you want it.’ That’s all I needed to hear.”
Higgins, the salesman, was sold on Hartmann from the start.
“She didn’t sit back, not even that first meeting when she didn’t know a soul,” Higgins said. “She was right in there, asking questions, thinking. You could just tell. She had it.”
Relocation and Livability Guide
Hartmann said Higgins gave her free reign to decide how she would spend her time at the LINK.
“He let me think about what I wanted to do, write up my role and put me in the driver’s seat,” she said.
Hartmann began thinking about how she could use her skill-set and experience as a consultant to complement the LINK’s mission.
“I started out asking myself, ‘What would I want to know about a city if I were thinking about moving there? What things would I look for?'” she said.
The idea of a guide based on those questions emerged.
Compiling research and assembling data, Hartmann crafted a guide that provides those answers — for everything from housing and education to cultural events and recreation, dining/nightlife, retail and industry.
“My parents love this community and chose to retire here,” she said. “I talked to them about why they made that decision. Then I was able to talk to companies that had located here to find out what it was about the community that led them here. The more I talked to people and listened to what they had to say, the more I was able to research the areas they mentioned.”
One of the keys to Hartmann’s work, she said, was recognizing the best tactic for recruiting to the area was to consider it from a regional point of view.
“If you concentrate just on Columbus, you’re really painting a small picture,” she said. “But when you look at it as the Golden Triangle, a bigger, better picture emerges. West Point may have something that people are looking for that Columbus doesn’t have. It’s the same with Columbus and Starkville. If you think in terms of the Golden Triangle, you begin to see why this is such a great place to do business.”
Hartmann will return to Northwestern where she’ll spend the next two semesters finishing her MBA. She expects to return to DeLoitte upon graduation.
But her long-term career plans remain open.
“Isn’t it like that with every millennial?” she asked, laughing. “We’re always asking ourselves what we want to do. The one thing I do know is I like solving problems and love facing new problems. That appeals to me. I want to continue that. For me, that means going back to consulting. If there is an ‘after that,’ I don’t know what it would be.
“But whatever that might be, I think I’ll definitely look back on the summer I spent here at the LINK as being something that was valuable to me,” she added.
Higgins, meanwhile, has his own prediction.
“That kid is going to do better than better than fine,” he said. “There’s no place but up for her.”
To view Hartmann’s “Living in the Golden Triangle” Relocation Guide visit: http://gtrlink.org/quality-of-life
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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