We’re celebrating Women’s History Month this March by introducing you to 10 women who help power your life at Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas. They advance our company with their vision, talent, hard work and creativity. These trailblazing women – including a nuclear engineer, astrophysicist and lineman – reveal inspiring stories of persistence, pluck and achievement in largely male-dominated fields. A diverse workplace isn’t just a nice idea, it’s a competitive necessity. Today, meet Erin Schneider, a director of economic development based in Indiana.
What do you do?
My team works closely with a network of partners across Indiana to attract new businesses and encourage existing businesses to grow in the Duke Energy service territory.
How do you do that?
Economic development is a team sport. We work closely with the Duke Energy Business Recruitment team and our local, regional and state economic development partners to develop and market the communities while strategically targeting the opportunities that make the most sense.
Did you always want to do this as a career?
No. I didn’t even know this was a career when I was a kid. I actually went to school for film and worked in Los Angeles for eight years as a film producer. I really enjoyed it out there, but I felt homesick for Indiana and really began to appreciate why I loved it so much. I moved back home to work for the state of Indiana’s film office trying to attract film productions to the state. My office was surrounded by people doing economic development and my interest in their work quickly turned into a newfound passion. I’ve been in the field 10 years now, and I still love it.
What do you love about your job?
I love seeing new construction and the excitement that spreads when new opportunities and possibilities are introduced to a community. As a partner to the business community, we bring quite a lot to the table in terms of technical expertise and strategic and project-level funding. We also help in marketing sites and communities and transaction assistance. To be able to support these efforts is incredibly rewarding. And I love that everything I do springs from the true passion I have for Indiana. When I’m talking to a New Jersey CEO who’s thinking about moving his factory here, I can honestly say, “This is a great place for your company to do business and for your employees to live.”
How did you come to work for Duke Energy?
I started with Duke Energy nine months ago. But when I was doing economic development for the state, I worked with Duke Energy folks all the time. Utilities like Duke Energy can be a big part of the equation when companies are making a decision. I’ve always been fascinated yet intimidated by the energy industry and that’s what drove me to want to learn more. If something is a challenge, I run at it with everything I have. I want to understand everything about it.
Why is what you do important?
We help communities thrive. We ask people, communities and companies “What do you need?” and then we step up. Last year we noticed that many of our partners needed assistance with marketing their communities so we took our site readiness program and adapted it to support 12 different organizations that had incredible stories but didn’t have the resources to reach the masses. It’s about making sure our economic development partners know they’re important by supporting them in the most effective ways.
What keeps you going and motivates you?
I used to manage an incredible team of young women. They were so fearless and tenacious but at the same time incredibly selfless. They are going to make great leaders one day. I’m inspired by the next generation of women. They light a fire under me.
What direct impact does your work have on Duke Energy customers’ lives?
Our economic development efforts with local, regional and state partnerships lead to new opportunities with both job creation and capital investment. This growth leads to further development in quality of place and talent attraction, and when our communities thrive, that is success.
“If something is a challenge, I run at it with everything I have. I want to understand everything about it.”