Tech Wizards Flock to Public Sector

While the supersonic slide of the New Economy has left plenty of people unhappy, CIOs from the public sector are smiling.

Rod Massey, CIO of Palo Alto, Calif., said he now gets three to four times as many resumes as he used to. "We have definitely noticed a change in the market, especially in the last six months," he said. "Given all of the changes in the economy, there seems to be a much greater availability of IT professionals in the market - especially those who are looking at and are interested in local government."

In San Francisco, Liza Lowery, executive director of the Department of Telecommunications and Information Services, oversees an IT staff of 450. She said her vacancy rate previously hovered around 25 percent, but she saw the number of applicants available for IT jobs spike in February and March.

Nine months ago, when she recruited for a management position, she received 30 resumes and wound up with three or four worthy candidates. "I recruited for that exact same position earlier this year and we had about 200 resumes," she said.

This scenario is also being played out in a county that neighbors San Francisco. Steven Steinbrecher, Contra Costa Countys CIO, said the dot-com doldrums translate into "pure heaven" for him.

"For the first time in two and a half years, I have a full staff. A year ago, I couldnt beg people to come work here," he said, adding that he had a vacancy rate of 25 percent at one time. "In the last five months, we have gotten more stuff done than we would have accomplished in eight or nine months because we have enough people to get the work done."

The other big impact, Steinbrecher said, is the amount of money the county has been able to save on consulting fees with the addition of the new staff.

Barry Smith, CIO of Gaithersburg, Md., believes that the public sector offers its own reward.

"The people who left have made more money," Smith said. "But they all said [here] was a better place to work. And its not just our team; its the whole city government thing. Its a nice place to be and you feel very connected to doing the right thing."

Entrepreneur Has Fiber Optic Plan

NEW YORK - More than 100 years ago, the U.S. Post Office built pneumatic tubes under the streets of the Big Apple, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis that shot canisters full of mail along at 30 miles per hour.

According to The New York Times, a New Yorker, Randolph Stark, has become fascinated with the idea of using the forgotten tubes as fiber-optic-cable conduits to connect buildings to already existing conduits of telecommunications companies. The man has filed a patent application for converting the tubes but is still seeking permission from the city to inspect the tubes.

The city is unsure of who actually owns the tubes, but, according to the Times, Starks research has led him to believe that the city was given ownership of the tubes in 1954.

The tubes extend under the streets of Manhattan for 27 miles. To build such conduits today would cost $100 million per mile, Stark told the paper.

Originally, the Times reported, mail was put into canisters that resembled two-foot long artillery shells, and those canisters were "shot" through the tubes to deliver the mail between post offices.

Starks plans may or may not dovetail into New Yorks plan to make use of an abandoned system of water mains used to deliver high-pressure water to firefighters. Those water mains comprise 125 miles of potential conduit, and the city released an