Business Development Manager, Michigan Economic Development Corporation;
Captain, U.S. Army, 1998 –2005.
Interviewed by Matthew Totsky
Photographed by Brett Mountain
Meet Birmingham resident Ingrid Tighe, presently a business development manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in Lansing. She is also a veteran of the U.S. Army, serving for nearly seven years in Germany, Kosovo, Macedonia and Iraq.
“I started out on a NATO Peacekeeping mission in 1999 and was deployed to Baghdad in 2004, where I served for one year,” she says. “My specialty was IT and telecom. I worked near the Baghdad International Airport and in the Green Zone, which is the area where the American Embassy is located. Our team helped to set up an IT network for the greater Baghdad area so our soldiers could communicate via computer, telephone and radio.
“It was a tough year, but very rewarding both professionally and personally,” she continues. “There were mortar and rocket attacks every day and constant threats from improvised explosive devices. But everyone that serves in Iraq is exposed to dangerous situations. There’s no longer a front line because everything is mixed and everyone is susceptible to danger.”
Tighe and her family are well traveled, but she believes they’ve finally found a home in Birmingham.
“I grew up in Denver and went to school at Vanderbilt in Tennessee on an Army ROTC scholarship,” she says. “I was commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduation. I met my husband in Germany and, after our military duty, we lived in Atlanta and then upstate New York before settling here. We’ve loved all of our experiences, but our time in Michigan has been one of our favorites.”
Industry changes: The manufacturing sector is becoming sexy again because of the advent of technology. The trend that we’re seeing is one where companies are always looking for top-notch talent. There is a constant need for people with strong technical skills in fields like engineering and IT. The technology component has made the marketplace more exciting and we can see a lot of that here in the Detroit area. It’s really growing.
Professionally speaking: Serving in the military gave me a strong sense of pride for my country, and I wanted to continue that in my professional career. After my service, I started working in commercial real estate development but knew my real passion was for public service. I feel that my work in economic development with the state has given me a chance to help companies grow. They’re creating jobs and, in turn, creating more prosperity for Michigan. I feel like I am contributing to something greater than myself and that’s a really good feeling.
Proudest career accomplishment: I am a patriotic person and proud of my military service. I am honored and lucky to have worked with so many smart, brave, hard-working and selfless people. Their patriotism has inspired me and carried over to the work I do now.
Career thoughts: I love working closely with other individuals and companies. I always try to approach every challenge from a collaborative perspective. I’ve found that by drawing on other people’s skills and expertise, it’s so much easier to come up with the best possible comprehensive solution.
Passion for: I always try to stay active. I take my four kids for walks to the park or in downtown Birmingham all the time. It’s good to combine an active lifestyle and engage with my family at the same time, and this area is perfect for that.
Life in Birmingham: This area has a strong sense of community and it reminds me a lot of Europe. It’s great for walking, with so many nice cafes and parks. We also love the school system here, and it was one of the top criteria for choosing to live in Birmingham. For us, it would be difficult to replicate this community in many other places, and we see this as a long-term fit for our family. I never thought I’d say that five years ago when we first moved to Michigan, but we fell in love with the area and don’t want to leave.
Favorite place to hang out: Our favorite place to eat and hang out is Streetside Cafe. The food is great and the service is wonderful. It’s got such a nice, intimate atmosphere and it’s become our “go-to” choice when eating out.
My perfect day: I like to start each day with a strong cup of coffee and a bit of exercise like walking or yoga. If I’m lucky, I can get a massage. Our family enjoys attending sporting events. My husband and I both went to grad school at the University of Michigan, and we’re fans of their football program. We also like the Red Wings and the Lions, too.
What most people don’t know about me: I am a second-generation American. My dad’s parents immigrated from Poland and my mother’s from Norway. This has helped me appreciate the concept of hard work and the pursuit of the American Dream. My grandparents were poor and not well-educated, but both of my parents went on to achieve great academic success. It’s been very inspirational. They taught me to work hard and find great opportunity in this great country. NS