Incredibly, another year has gone by. With our feet barely into the 21st century the world is confronted by unprecedented change and challenge, both politically and in business. These are not times for conventional thinking, and entrepreneurial minds of all kinds will be called on to lead us forward. Ernst & Young is proud to present the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for 2004. Our commitment to this program comes from the knowledge that the entrepreneurial spirit is the source of some of the finest things on the planet today and our surest hope for a better tomorrow. While entrepreneurs work to solve their singular problems, the benefit of what they devise becomes available to many. When Edison invented the light bulb, he set the foundation to drive away darkness literally and figuratively. Streets, stairwells, dark corners and lives were made safer by his ingenuity. In many ancient mythologies, people who performed remarkable deeds were immortalized as constellations in the night sky. It's a beautiful metaphor about the way great lives transcend their physical limits and great deeds remain in view, their consequence resonating for centuries. This likeness to stars applies particularly well to entrepreneurs. These are people whose achievements are beyond the scope of most of us, their ingenuity and adaptability greater; their determination more fierce. Today, when battlefronts are technological and the monsters that walk the earth have names like leukemia, we have different types of heroes. But the victories of our champions are just as spectacular and just as significant for the rest of society. And their brilliance and resolve burn like beacons. Entrepreneurial innovation has never come from strict adherence to rules or from lingering safely with the group ? the culture of entrepreneurship is renowned for its individualism. So we at Ernst & Young believe it is especially important to encourage an entrepreneurial community and support entrepreneurs, who frequently assume great individual risk as they struggle to make their vision a reality. The Entrepreneur of the Year Program brings together men and women from across the spectrum of business to share their experience and to receive the recognition of their peers. Today's entrepreneurs are making strides in every imaginable field. Their progress promotes a better economy, which benefits everyone, and their advances improve the quality of our lives. We want to thank and congratulate all of our outstanding nominees.
John A. Belli Managing Partner