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(Janesville, WI) Scott Angus, Gazette

Has innovation ever been more important than it is in southern Wisconsin right now?

Rock County, in particular, has been working hard to battle back from the loss of the General Motors plant in Janesville in 2008. Walworth County didn't suffer a single blow of that magnitude, but its economy also took a significant hit during the recession of the past few years.

To thrive again, both areas must find new ways to attract businesses, grow their existing companies, train workers and generally do whatever it takes to emerge as competitors in the new economy.

The manufacturing companies and jobs that sustained the area for decades are largely gone, replaced by businesses that rely more heavily on technology and need workers with specific skills. Schools must adapt, and they are. The future is looking brighter by the day.

In large part, that thinking was the inspiration for this special section, “Innovation 2014.” We wanted to share the stories of some of the most innovative and interesting developments in our area.

We started by directing our reporters and others to ask people in the know about some of the innovative things happening in our businesses, schools and organizations. We ended up with a list of dozens and ended up selecting about 20 during a meeting in late 2013.

While some involved businesses and the types of stories we anticipated, others went in different but important directions, such as stormwater management, cancer care and emergency treatment of pets. While some of our subjects are leaders in their fields, others are offering or bringing new approaches or services to the area.

The recurring theme that emerged involves the number of smart, driven and passionate people who are pushing their companies and organizations to do better, to meet the changing needs of their customers and to ensure a better future.

That's what innovation is all about. It's happening all around us. These stories don't cover all of the worthy topics by any means, but they focus on shining examples. Dig in. Learn. Enjoy.


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