Innovation and centers of excellence

Innovation. It’s a concept we are all intrigued with, but what does it mean in our everyday lives? How does the ability to envision new approaches and act on those ideas make a difference?

The Innovation in Business Conference was created to foster thinking which allows and encourages creativity to improve the quality of life. Five years ago, Smart Business Network and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield management created this forum to build an environment for innovation and excellence.

Since then, we have learned from the successes of master innovators. We’ve celebrated the victories and encouraged the rising stars to reach for even greater success. And we’ve watched as our region struggled to reinvent itself from its dominant manufacturing base to a new identity.

The 2003 event recognizes four dominant areas in which Northern Ohio excels: health care, the arts, education and manufacturing. By recognizing and encouraging innovation in these key areas, we hope to nurture new ideas and build momentum so that we can continue to become known in the global market as a mecca for these areas.

* Arts. Playhouse Square is the second-largest performance arts center in the United States outside of the New York City theater district. The Cleveland Orchestra is recognized throughout the world as best in class. The Cleveland Play House is one of the oldest and most esteemed professional theaters in the country.

These anchors are joined by local theaters, dance, music and improvisational companies. The arts are a center of excellence we can build upon. Tomorrow we could outpace Toronto as a destination.

* Health care. The Cleveland Clinic draws people from around the world. We are blessed as well with the outstanding resources of University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University Medical School and other regional hospitals.

* Education is the foundation for innovation and we have an abundance of colleges and universities to launch innovative ideas. Our schools are our future.

* Manufacturing is our history and still a mainstay with our rich natural resources and trained talent pool. Proximity to distribution channels and major markets remains a key attraction for business to consider this a location for success.

It is our responsibility to continue to innovate and to encourage the continued success of these four centers of excellence. Stay open to the idea that Northern Ohio is a great place for creative new ideas to flourish. Joseph LaGuardia is regional vice president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the title sponsor of Smart Business’ Innovation in Business Conference.