Innovation is not just a Silicon Valley buzzword, but rather the lifeblood of every modern economy. That makes Baiju Shah the right leader at the right time for the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Shah took over as president and CEO of the organization in April, bringing with him a wealth of experience as senior fellow for innovation at the Cleveland Foundation and head of the Cleveland Innovation Project. We caught up with Shah to learn more about how he plans to lead his hometown to new economic heights.
Cleveland Magazine: What do you hope to accomplish with the Greater Cleveland Partnership?
Baiju R. Shah: All businesses must embrace innovation. It’s not enough to just think about constant improvement — we have to think about how innovation can transform our businesses. For example, we saw this in retail. The way we shop changed from mall stores to big box to e-commerce. If we’re not pursuing innovation, we can be assured that our competitors will be.
CM: How can we successfully focus on innovation?
BS: Innovation is in Cleveland’s DNA. Not only dating back to the industrial era, but also now with health care innovation like Cleveland Clinic’s recent partnership with IBM on quantum computing. The Greater Cleveland Partnership, along with other civic organizations, launched the Cleveland Innovation Project two years ago to concentrate our efforts on three sectors where we have a distinctive strength, market opportunities and committed leadership. Those sectors are smart manufacturing, health care and water technologies.
CM: What is the biggest challenge facing Cleveland?
BS: Our mindset. Too many individuals in our region are constantly looking backward instead of forward. Confidence attracts people and investment and business. Confidence is absolutely critical. We need our business owners to have the mindset that this is a great place to work and a great place to build a business. If we all believe that, it will lead to greater interest in moving here, building here and investing here.