Ashley Savieo and the Pursuit of Knowledge

Ask Ashley Savieo a question. She’ll think it over, formulate an answer and give you her thoughts.

That patient mindset is a learned skill for Savieo, the Director of Economic and Business Development at American Electric Power (AEP). It was something she developed over time, and it was necessary because she wanted to move at a lightning pace when she first got into economic development. And that’s not how things go in this world.

However, in her pursuit of knowledge, she was and is anything but patient.

Savieo left Northeast Indiana after graduating from South Side High School and thought she would never come back to Fort Wayne.

While at Purdue, she switched her major multiple times before she landed on sociology and psychology. Still not certain what she wanted to do after school, she got some help from a counselor, who showed her that economic development could be an option. They provided Savieo with examples of former students who worked on developments in Indianapolis.

She found an internship with Allen County and it sparked her desire to immerse herself in a profession.

“I ended up lucking into this internship with the department of planning services, and while I was there, I wanted to learn more about development. I shadowed people and went to plan commission meetings,” Savieo said. “I didn’t know what economic development meant, but I knew there was a person in that department.”

That spark turned into a full-blown fire after graduating from Purdue. She got a “paper-pushing job” that didn’t excite her much but helped lay the foundation of knowledge needed to be successful later on down the line.

“I was fortunate to attend multiple conferences. I was a sponge. I wanted to experience learn more, and I recognized that there was more than what a local unit of government can do,” Savieo said. “I kept seeking additional opportunities and pushing to implement new programs and proactive best practices other successful communities were promoting. It evolved into this career that I have today.”

Along the way, there were key people in her life who took a chance on her and allowed her the opportunity to create and grow. She calls them her personal board of directors.

“There were several people who respected that I was there to roll up my sleeves to get things done. I wanted to make a difference to make Allen County a cooler place,” Savieo said. “Those people nurtured and embraced me.”

Savieo worked at Greater Fort Wayne Inc. (previously the Economic Development Alliance) for five years, then left the nonprofit world and went to work as the marketing communications manager at VOSS Automotive for a year. It gave her a different perspective that she eventually took with her to AEP.

“The move into the private sector and gave me a greater appreciation for budgets, return on investments and business principles that aren’t as applicable in nonprofit and local government. And that’s what excited me about the role with Indiana Michigan Power initially,” Savieo said. “It’s the marriage of economic development and bringing in new revenue for the business.

Throughout her career, she’s been able to work on a lot of big projects and assisted a few big names in Northeast Indiana, including GM, Vera Bradley, VOSS and BAE Systems.

“BAE That was a big employer that Fort Wayne stood to lose. Many folks from the City of Fort Wayne and Allen County came to the table and we had to get creative and push some people out of their comfort zones. At the end of the day, we, as a community had to prove we could make it financially reasonable to construct a state of the art facility and grow into the future,” Savieo said.

Most recently, she played a part in bringing the Google Data Center to our region.

“There was a fantastic team that made the Google project come together in the end. But for the relationship that I had the opportunity to build with the main company representative and the trust there, they would not have looked at the Fort Wayne market to start,” Savieo said.

“It just so happened that Fort Wayne could bring all the ingredients for success – power, water and contiguous land. It was a gamble on a non-data-center market. In the early stages, I had a lot of local support as I was feeding information to the company and my partners placed a lot of trust in me that this massive request was real and worthy.”

During the discussions with the representatives from Google, Savieo had to practice what she had learned during her career, patience, persistence and resilience.

“I coach my team about resilience and persistence, but you have to be respectful in that persistence,” Savieo said.

Additionally, she encourages her team and newer economic development professionals to be resilient and inquisitive. Because she was once in their shoes.

“This is a job of ‘hurry up and wait’ with a conversion rate of less than 10%, and that can be defeating in the early stages of your career so learning resilience is key. It makes the wins incredibly rewarding!” Savieo said. “As a young professional, don’t be discounted because you’re young. You are not inferior; you see old problems a different way so find ways to demonstrate your expertise, ask all the questions and take your spot at the table.”

Related Articles