2020 Women of Influence: Kathy Martin Harrison

Owner and CEO
Ed Martin Automotive Group

Achievements: Harrison’s company, Ed Martin Automotive Group, was the largest woman-owned business in Indianapolis last year, according to IBJ research. It owns nine car dealerships representing 12 manufacturers in Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville and Anderson. Though she successfully runs a company with 600 employees, she is most proud of the work she has done to help educate students in middle school through high school about skilled-trades jobs, specifically technical careers in car service and auto body repair.

Her company partnered with Lawrence Township Schools and the district’s McKenzie Center for Innovation and Technology to create The Ed Martin Automotive Careers Training Center. When Ed Martin—her father and mentor—died in 2005, she started the Ed Martin Legacy Fund to provide a scholarship for a Lawrence Township high school senior who is seeking a post-secondary education in an automotive program.

Career track: Harrison was born in 1956, the year after her father started what would become the Ed Martin Automotive Group. She grew up surrounded by the car business and stayed the course after graduating cum laude from Butler University in 1979 with a bachelor’s in social work and sociology.

Giving back: Harrison is active at Butler University, her alma mater, where she is a trustee and has, at various times, been a member of the Board of Visitors, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council and the university’s Indiana Alumni Chapter Steering Committee. She was on the founding board of the Ryan White Foundation and on the committee that brought the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to Indianapolis.

She’s served on many boards, including for the Junior League of Indianapolis, the Indiana Sports Corp., YWCA, Lawrence Township Schools Foundation, and Heartland Truly Moving Pictures. Harrison is also a big supporter of animal rescue organizations, including Love of Labs Indiana, Hamilton County Humane Society and the Animal Protection League.     

Mentors and mentoring: When Harrison was 28, she joined the Junior League of Indianapolis, an organization she said has been a big part of her success. “I met and worked with dynamic women over the past 36 years who trained me, supported me and are life-long friends.” Now she tries to pay that forward through her work with Junior Achievement’s Job Spark initiative, a hands-on career fair for students in grades 8-12.

Work/life balance: “For me, exercise is medicine. I have worked out religiously five days a week for the past 24 years.” During the pandemic, she discovered meditation, which has become a daily practice.

She’s in two book clubs and loves spending time with girlfriends. “Never deny the power of your girlfriends/friendships.”•

Check out more Women of Influence honorees.

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