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Antioquia’s reputation is skyrocketing

Article - April 8, 2014
The department’s transformation has raised its profile and set its capital Medellín on its way to becoming one of the most innovative cities in the world
Antioquia, located in the northwestern part of the country, and its capital, Medellín, the nation’s second largest city, are proud of their great renewal over the last two decades. Social projects like schools, libraries, and parks have developed, and crime has decreased by nearly 80%. Transportation has improved, with the city receiving the Sustainable Transportation Award in 2012. 
A consistent increasing trend of growth of over 5% is expected in 2014. Exports, such as agriculture and electricity, are on the rise. In her early 2013 trip to Medellín, Hillary Clinton, in her capacity as U.S. Secretary of State at the time, declared it had “achieved transformation”. With its new profile and spirit, Antioquia looks towards new challenges and is abuzz with activity. 
The UN has chosen Medellín to host the World Urban Forum in 2014 (beating the likes of Montreal, Seoul and Doha), which is expected to draw 10,000 people from 150 nations, including heads of state, mayors, governors, experts, community leaders, and business professionals. The forum, uniting the most recognized international experts in urban development, is a great opportunity for the city and the region to demonstrate its potential, as well as showcase the country’s commitment to urban planning. 
One of its major challenges now is the development of its people’s talent and education. Governor Sergio Fajardo has been a strong advocate of education; he believes in transforming society by using education “in a broad sense of science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and culture.” His government is spearheading programs to actively engage women in politics and teach entrepreneurship to youth, steps necessary for transforming society fundamentally. 
Another challenge for Medellín is to be the innovation capital of Latin America. In 2013, it was selected as the most innovative city in 2013 by the Urban Land Institute. “There is nothing more demanding than that prize because innovation means you have to be changing and reinventing yourself constantly,” says Mayor Aníbal Gaviria. Hence the ‘Medellínnovation’ program, he explains, designed so that projects and goals can be accomplished in a planned and technical yet creative way. 
The reason it was selected most innovative city? Mr. Gaviria credits “the character of its citizens: creative, innovative and entrepreneurial.” The geography of the region “historically demanded its people to have the innovative capacity of thriving,” says Alvaro Gómez Jaramillo, directing board member of PQP, a chemical production company based in Medellín. It is “human talent” that propels the city forward. 
And it is thriving and growing, containing the highest number of multi-Latin companies in all of Colombia. Juan Camilo Quintero, Executive Director of Ruta N, a private-public collaborative innovation organization, believes the city will play a “leading role in the attraction of new foreign investment. It has changed its image thanks to the tenacity not only of institutions but of entrepreneurs and good public administration.” 
Juan Sebastián Betancur, Ambassador of Colombia in Italy and former President of Proantioquia (a private, non-profit business forum), reiterates the importance of innovation for the department’s future, because “Antioquia can’t compete in the global market based on manufacturing alone”.
The city will continue working on innovation and the development of human talent as a priority; luckily, both are interconnected. “When we speak about innovation, we also speak about it in the social aspect trying to bring opportunities to the most vulnerable,” says Carlos Ignacio Gallego, the President of Grupo Nutresa. Mr. Jaramillo echoes this sentiment: “Innovation depends on people, not on technological equipment.”