with newly appointed CIO Ron Hawley reporting directly to the governor.

"Im not sure theres any other state in the country right now thats doing more than we are in IT-related work," said Commerce Secretary Rick Carlisle. "I think theres a real window of opportunity here. There are a lot of major investments being made by companies in Internet-related technologies, and a lot of new companies starting up. So states that capture that will continue to see growth. If you dont capture that, you can be left behind."

Picking Up the Pace

The NC @ Your Service portal forms the cornerstone of an aggressive attempt by North Carolina leaders to put their state at the forefront of the emerging Internet economy. The sites first online citizen services -- auto registration renewals and an electronic store selling

state fair tickets -- appeared in September, and state officials intend to add more at a near-daily clip.

For instance, the state will gradually expand the online store to include sales of tickets for all state-run attractions, as well as merchandise from public facilities like zoos and museums. Officials are studying options for moving all procurement online and integrating local government information and services onto the portal. Also under way are projects creating statewide platforms for electronic forms processing, surplus property auctions and digital signatures.

Ultimately, North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall expects the portal to perform several key functions.

"Its a way we can serve citizens on their time frame. Theres a reason why Wal-Mart is open 24 hours a day -- people shop 24 hours a day. People will use government 24 hours a day if we make it available to them," she said. "Also, we have a growing high-tech industry in North Carolina, and if we as a government dont lead by showing that we are interested in this kind of thing, how can we get venture capitalists to look at North Carolina? How can we get companies to locate here? How can we get universities to emphasize the curriculum that will turn out

the workers needed for high-tech industries?"

In fact, Carlisle said an effective Web presence has become essential for attracting attention from professional site consultants that advise companies on where to locate facilities. "Theyll use Web-based systems for initial searches, so depending on the quality of information that

you have online, you can be included or screened out early in the site location process," he said. "If you dont do a good job of getting information to them, its going to hurt industry recruitment efforts."

Heeding that advice, Carlisles Department of Commerce created an application called North Carolina SiteSearch that allows Web users to view specifications and pictures of all available industrial buildings and building sites within the state. The agency collected a NASIRE award in September for the initial application, and within months it

plans to add the ability to deliver custom online portfolios that give companies quick information on taxes, infrastructure and other issues associated with relocating to the state.

North Carolina hopes to spur this type of innovation through a newly created E-grant program that will pump $4 million into agency e-government projects this year. Thirty-seven agencies -- including the Department of Commerce -- had submitted grant proposals worth $13 million by the programs Aug. 31 application deadline. The state was scheduled to choose funding recipients in September.

"Were looking at this as a way to jump-start our e-government efforts," said Sharon Hayes, head of the NC @ Your Service Project Team, a new organization within ITS which runs the grant program and oversees the portal. "Were looking for things that truly transform the

way you interact with government."

Flexible Approach

Accommodating the demands of e-government -- which puts

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  | 

Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic.