In the buzzword-heavy world of business, perhaps no single term is as overused (and misunderstood) as the word, “Innovation.” Yet, for all its use and misuse, the reality is that innovation is central to both our daily quality of life as individuals and to the health of our economy.

This blog digs into why that is true. But first, a quick word about the root of our common misunderstanding. Innovation is commonly used, right or wrong, as both a noun and a verb. (This is the basis for some hilariously nerdy debate, comparable even to the Great Oxford Comma Debate.)

As a noun, innovation refers simply to a new thing. The iPhone, for example, is referred to as a powerful innovation. It is a thing that, when invented, revolutionized how we communicated with each other and accessed information. Importantly, however, innovation is also used as a verb to describe the process by which an individual or firm goes about envisioning, developing, and implementing a breakthrough new product or service. It is often said that Apple “innovated” the way we communicate.

Grammar-policing aside for now, whether noun or verb, innovation is clearly central to modern life and business. Few would argue that innovation in the fields of information technology, transportation, public health, public safety, among so many others, have improved our quality of life. Similarly, the companies that have driven those innovations have changed the face of the modern economy.

While innovation also often conjures up the scrappy startup operating out of a garage or a dorm room, it applies equally significantly when it comes to large corporations. The constant drive of large corporate entities toward improving efficiency, effectiveness, or competitive advantage results in an economic ecosystem that is constantly in flux. While to an outsider, “big business” may appear to be monolithic, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In every industry, companies and products fade and new, exciting ones assert themselves.

So what does that ebb and flow mean for economic development in a region like Denver South? Today we enjoy the presence of six Fortune 500 headquarters in our region, including global brands: Arrow Electronics, Qurate Retail Group, DISH Network, Liberty Media, Newmont Goldcorp, and Western Union.  These six companies employ thousands in Denver South and are an example of companies that have broken through and become major players in their respective industries. Beyond the Fortune 500 list, Denver South is home to literally thousands of other major global companies, each equally important to our diverse economy.

The future success of these important primary employers is assured only as long as they’re able to keep pushing the innovation envelope in their given industries. Unsurprisingly, they are, including a few notable examples.

Arrow, a wildly successful global electronics supply chain company for decades, is building their engineering services business to engage with supplier companies more deeply, develop new products and markets alongside new customers, and create entirely new revenue lines. They’ve even created a physical lab in which to conduct this collaboration, called the Colorado Open Lab.   DISH Network, a long-time player in cable television, recently became one of the handful of companies vying to become leaders in the development of 5G mobile networks, launching their first major U.S. market later this year .  Western Union, long known for money transfers between physical locations around the world, is now embracing new mobile app-based payment services and sourcing emerging fintech innovations through their sponsorship of the Techstars & Western Union Accelerator. That’s just to name very few.

At the macro level of a regional economy, this constant evolution, this ongoing innovation, is central to each of these firms remaining major economic forces in Denver South in the future. To do so, they employ a host of strategies. They develop internal processes to solicit ideas more efficiently from their workforce. They hire more diverse new workers to find new ideas and approaches. They partner with academia and research labs to commercialize new technologies. They engage in deep co-development relationships with customers to explore future needs. And they engage with promising early stage companies in their given industries, sometimes as strategic partners and sometimes as acquirers.

If they are successful in continually achieving these new breakthroughs, it will mean continued economic competitiveness for not only their individual companies and industries, but also for Denver South’s economy.

To put it simply, at Denver South we support and promote corporate innovation because, as either a noun or verb, innovation is vital to our continued economic success.