INNOVATION Philadelphia, a local economic-development agency, has adopted a strategic vision called "Innovation Matters."

It is grounded in four powerful core values: confidence in the future of the greater Philadelphia region, diversity, cooperation and the importance of innovative thinking. We also are guided by the belief that in today's global economy, only well-organized regions will be positioned to attract businesses and new resources.

To help grow jobs and sustain expansion, Innovation Philadelphia will work to establish an identity for the region that enhances our competitive position and reputation.

This region is well-positioned to become the center of America's creative economy, a focal point for creative enterprises, services and talent, an important and achievable goal.

To pursue that, Innovation Philadelphia is partnering with regional institutions committed to growing the economic impact of the non-profit creative economy and establishing Philadelphia as the international home for rhythm and blues.

We will take the lead in expanding the for-profit creative economy, particularly in the technology-based creative industries. These entrepreneurial industries, like architecture, design, digital media, engineering, IT, software development, communications, and music and film production, can be greater economic generators within the region than they are today.

Public support for the creative economy, including dedicated funding for non-profit art and culture organizations, is necessary to help position Philadelphia as a leader in this important sector of the knowledge economy. A well-defined and growing creative economy will leverage more jobs, more tax revenues and a distinct identity for the greater Philadelphia region.

In addition to building a regional identity that encompasses our pursuit of life-science businesses, the region must aggressively pursue young professionals between the ages of 25-34.

The Brookings Institution, in a recent report, concluded that Pennsylvania's aging population impedes growth. In 2005, only 11.9 percent of the state's population was 25-34. In an extremely competitive market for talent, this percentage is unacceptable.

Young professionals are the most coveted workers in America. If the growing number of college students who stay here after graduation could be combined with a growing 25-34 demographic, our regional economy would have an important foundation for long-term economic stability.

The implementation of strategies to attract and retain 25-34 professionals is a priority for Innovation Philadelphia. The strategies will include providing resources to link them with jobs and to promote events that showcase their talent and accomplishments.

Providing forums where young professionals can network and making the region a place where students and relocating young professionals feel welcome will be important to our success.

FORTUNATELY, Philadelphia and surrounding counties have the amenities that appeal to this group: vibrant nightlife with world-class restaurants, great parks and trails, great neighborhoods, great shopping malls, accessibility and affordability.

To distinguish Philadelphia from other competitive regions in the knowledge economy, our universities and leading thinkers must generate new ideas and rediscover Philadelphia's history of innovative firsts.

Innovation Philadelphia will be a catalyst for innovative thinking and new ideas. We'll invest in new local creative-economy businesses and promising student entrepreneurs. We'll host innovation forums throughout the region with a diverse cross-section of the region's knowledge base that opens lines of communication and promotes cutting-edge thinking. New ideas and new entrepreneurs will lead to new partnerships, new ways of doing business and new discoveries that will make Philadelphia a first-tier competitor in the "flat world" of the 21st century.

Finally, Innovation Philadelphia will encourage civic and political leaders throughout the region to join forces on a common agenda. Only a strong greater Philadelphia region will make us attractive to foreign investment and a serious competitor in the global economy.

To prosper, regional leaders must work aggressively and selflessly in support of and in cooperation with one another. Without question, there is much work to be done, but we look forward to the challenge. *

George Burrell is president and CEO of Innovation Philadelphia.