Best known for forging professional relationships within the business community, Nancy Wheeler, vice president of Investor Relations for the MetroHartford Alliance, works diligently to make connections. Since she came on board in 2004, Wheeler has worked to build the Alliance's membership base while keeping an eye on the region's economic resurgence going forward.
"I'm responsible for being out in the community, spreading the word of the Alliance and the mission of the Alliance, which is to compete for jobs, capital and talent, and engage our investors to accomplish that," she said. "So whether it is with a small group of investors or a large group, I think people look to me to help them identify people who will help their business grow."
Wheeler has grown revenues by one-third since 2004, and her efforts have resulted in a 97 percent retention rate from major corporate sponsors.
Knowing people in all parts of the business community is the key to success for Wheeler.
"I think I'm a good listener, and people come to me with a challenge or problem in the hopes that I can help them to identify a solution by connecting them with the right partners," she said.
Wheeler said she is particularly proud of her involvement in the effort to bring the first transcontinental flight to Amsterdam from Bradley International Airport. The flight didn't last as long as she would have liked, but she said the effort was worthwhile.
"When you bring the business community together for one single purpose, it's pretty remarkable to have something like that happen," she said.
Wheeler also takes her role of being a woman business leader seriously, and believes it necessary to nurture relationships between women in business. Last year, MetroHartford Alliance launched a women's leadership luncheon series in an attempt to provide a venue for emerging leaders to meet, network and mentor younger women.
"It has just tremendous potential and opportunity," she said. "We reach a point where we have to look at the next generation of women leaders and the role we as professional women must play in supporting that next generation."
Anne Elvgren of Elvgren Associates, a marketing and business development firm, works closely with Wheeler through the MetroHartford Alliance, of which Elvgren is a member. Elvgren said Wheeler is very good at what she does.
"She really is a very good ambassador for the mission and the reasons the MetroHartford Alliance exists," Elvgren said. "She also understands, on the other side, why members are involved and so she really tries to make sure members who are financing the organization really see what results they're getting for their financial investment."
Elvgren said Wheeler tries to understand, from the member viewpoint, why they're involved with the Alliance, and what they would like to get out of the organization.
"It's a key place for business leaders to come together as a community, and she really facilitates that," Elvgren said. "She does it very seamlessly. One of her driving forces is to make other people look good."
Elvgren said Wheeler's communications skills are her biggest asset.
"One thing she is known for is being a great sounding board for ideas," she said. "She connects the dots a lot between information and people and she connects people."
All the relationships Wheeler has formed have her keyed in to areas of potential economic growth.
One area Wheeler sees potential for growth is health care.
"This area can and should be a health care center of excellence, between the hospitals and the medical school and the insurance carriers; we have tremendous assets," she said. "This organization has an opportunity to play a pivotal role in positioning and marketing this region as such. That attracts talent and it keeps talent here. Everyone knows that attracting and retaining a diverse and talented workforce makes a tremendous difference in why a region is attractive."
Wheeler said she sees growth in innovation as well, as seen through the "iQuilt" project, an initiative to connect the arts, culture and innovation in the Hartford region.
"I believe this area has a real innovative spirit, and we need to do more to attract entrepreneurs who want to come here, live here and work here."
Outside of work, Wheeler uses her passion to work with the Women's Day event at the Travelers Championship each year, and also serves on the board of Billings Forge Community Works, a human services agency in the Frog Hollow section of Hartford.
Wheeler said the challenge of her work at MetroHartford Alliance keeps her going every day.
"We don't sell widgets, or something you can hold onto," she said. "We're selling a mission and we're selling the idea that if it were not for the MetroHartford Alliance, who would be that go-to organization to bring the business community together."
"I am honored and humbled to receive this award which would not be possible without the support of my colleagues and the Alliance investors with whom I work."