We’re proud to share the news that Anne-Marie Heron, Executive Director of Capital Planning and Operations and Acting Vice-President of Research, was honoured as Executive of the Year at the Influential Women of Northern Ontario Awards ceremony on June 2nd at the Victoria Inn. Anne-Marie plays a vital role at the Health Sciences Centre. She has spearheaded green initiatives that have reduced our carbon footprint, and lowered our energy costs which allow more resources to go towards patient care. The following article was originally featured on the award winners section of the Influential Women’s website.
When Anne-Marie Heron moved to Thunder Bay in 1996, little did she know just how important the city would become.
The North York-born, University of Toronto-educated chemical engineer was doing her thesis in Thunder Bay at the Avenor pulp and paper mill — now Resolute Forest Products — when she was offered a job upon completion of her Master’s degree in engineering.
“It was the new next adventure,” said Heron.
For a dozen years, she cycled through different roles at the mill, getting a feeling for the operations and technical side of things. During that period, Heron was able to expand upon her education in earning an MBA.
“There were tonnes of business and economic projects at the mill — it was a very complementary skill to develop,” said Heron.
However, after 12 years, and after the addition of a daughter to her family, Heron was ready for a change.
“You know how they say life changes after you have a child? Given where I was in life at that point, I was trying to reassess priorities and see what was next,” said Heron. “I looked at what would be a good fit for my family life, and at that point the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) had launched its research arm, and they were looking for someone to run their research operations. It involved research and technical work, but also overseeing the facility operations. I thought it would be an exciting opportunity.”
In 2008, Heron found herself using her skills in an entirely different environment, as the director of research operations at the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute (TBRRI). Heron was quickly recognized for her energy and drive, strong planning and execution skills.
“From working in industry and in production, I have a high drive for efficiency, production, economies, etc., but to balance that out is the human side of it,” said Heron.
Heron is the leader to a significant team. After working her way up through the organization, she is now the executive director of capital planning and operations and acting vice-president of research for the TBRHSC. “Figuring out how to engage the employees that work for me and with me, I think we try and take a collaborative approach. We have a tight-knit team. I’m pretty consistent but also very approachable and will always consider other people’s input and opinions.”
In her role, Heron has spearheaded green initiatives that have marked TBRHSC as one of the innovative organizations in the community. In 2013, the Ontario Hospital Association gave financial support to help TBRHSC upgrade their ventilation and controls systems; Union Gas provided $100,000 in incentive grants for retrofitting; and they received the largest ever Thunder Bay Hydro rebate in 2014. Following that project, the hospital reduced their annual energy consumption by about 20 per cent.
Her next project was a cogeneration plant that now produces a significant portion of the facility’s energy and heat, and reduces their reliance on the grid.
These projects paired Heron’s scientific knowhow with her organizational and business skills in ways that are reducing greenhouse gasses, reducing their carbon footprint, and saving the TBRHSC a significant amount of money that can be redirected to patient care.
Heron sees Thunder Bay evolving, and sees her role as indicative of the new economy developing in the North. “I’ve seen it develop and expand. There’s been a lot of progressive change: new professionals moving to town and the development of a knowledge-based economy,” said Heron.
For 19 years the Influential Women of Northern Ontario Awards (IW) has profiled and honoured incredible women who have contributed to economic wealth and growth in the northern region. They are small business owners, young entrepreneurs, leaders, visionaries and trailblazers. These IW Alumni represent various communities and cities in the North –from Sioux Lookout, to Elliot Lake, to Kapuskasing, to Kenora and the five major cities in between. What all the IW Alumni share is the tenacity, energy and fortitude to seek success for themselves, their employees and their communities.
14 awards (7 in each region) will be presented to women at a celebratory luncheon within one of 7 categories: Executive of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Tradeswoman of the Year, Aboriginal Leadership, and Influential Community Trailblazer and Business of the Year.