Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday urged technology professionals to press for innovation despite the sometimes plodding pace of government.

"I know a lot of you are swimming upstream when it comes to getting your ideas across. Never accept the status quo," Perry told state and local government IT workers in opening remarks at the 19th annual GTC-Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Thousands of state and local IT professionals are expected to attend the four-day event, which offers multiple training courses and seminars, as well as technology exhibits from more than 100 vendors.

Perry said CIOs, IT managers and other technology workers have a difficult but vital task.

"Government is not normally what you think of as agile and fast-moving. But don't give up on implementing your ideas," he said. "You'll grasp the importance of technology before anyone else in your agency. You're the agents of change, and change is hard."

Perry said innovation is a cornerstone of his efforts to keep Texas economically competitive and responsive to the needs of citizens. He pointed to the December launch of the Governor's Competitiveness Council, created to identify impediments to global competitiveness and make recommendations for how Texas can improve its economic footing for long-term success.

State and local government IT professionals will play a vital role in these initiatives by helping public institutions work smarter, and by supporting technology-related projects that draw top business and research talent to the state. Perry added that IT applications also play a fundamental part in public safety, pointing to Web-based assistance for domestic violence victims and information systems that support police and firefighters.

Further advancements depend on the ability of IT officials to make the case for new technologies and persevere in the face of opposition or bureaucratic gridlock.

"You're the prophets in your organization. Embrace that title and the responsibilities that come with it," Perry said. "Realize what you do really matters. You make a difference."