Every year, Michael Porter hosts a reception for the Inner City 100 at the Harvard Business School. The event is a great chance to hear the smartest business thinkers in the country share their ideas. In that group, I'd include both the Ivy League professors and the street-smart CEOs.
The Inner City 100 is an important project for Inc. for a couple of reasons. First, it shines the spotlight on how businesses gain competitive advantage by seizing opportunities that others fail to see. The advantage may be specific to their location, as is the case with the Inner City 100, or it may be something else. Regardless of where your company is based, you can learn the value of thinking creatively from the Inner City 100.
The Inner City 100 also underscores an important point about business that Michael makes in his essay "More Tales of the Inner City," which begins on page 86. Entrepreneurs in many ways are the forgotten civic leaders. As Michael notes, they are the only people in the world who have ever created a sustainable jobs program. Schools and government and community groups all play a vital role in knitting America's social fabric. But so do business owners, and often they are not given credit for the important work they do. Incidentally, recognizing that fact is, I believe, one of Inc.'s competitive advantages.
Finally, let me tell you about Jeffrey Ake, an Inc. 500 alumnus who recently won a contract to filter and bottle water in Iraq. The work, though dangerous, was right up Jeff's alley. He frequently spoke about exporting and wrote a book on the topic. On April 13, Al-Jazeera aired a video indicating that Jeff had been taken hostage. Businesses in his hometown showed their support by hanging red, white, and blue ribbons in their windows. The entire Inc. community prays for Jeff's safe return, and his family and his employees remain in our thoughts.