GT: How can technology applications be used as a tool to make a resident's life better or to manage a city better?
McCaleb: I think that is the question that lies at the heart of the matter, and I'm sure that we haven't come anywhere close to discovering the full answer. I think there are at least a couple of things.
One is we know that technology is beginning to make geographic location less of a total determinate of things like jobs, accessibility, employability and so forth. People can do much of their work anywhere now. This is one of the things that we're trying to position ourselves for.
Geographically, Abilene will never become a seacoast shipping port. But that's not a determinate to the extent that it used to be in the manufacturing era, because more and more jobs, in what they are calling the information era, are connected with technology.
We aren't a manufacturing center like Detroit. As downsizing occurs, people are finding fewer jobs available in some types of industries. But jobs are opening up in new kinds of areas and industries.
We've already seen some of that happening here. Not long ago, we were able to acquire a remote postal encoding center here. They started with 200 jobs and now it's already up to 250. It's still growing and is projected to add another 100 to 150 jobs. People are working at computer terminals and encoding mail. The envelopes pass across a screen and they supply the encoding on each of those so that they go on out.
When you create economic development in areas, then the engine starts running again. I suspect there are many more applications of this that apply to education, health care, agriculture and practically every other area.
But I think the challenge for us now is to find the answers. My personal sense is that we are on the very early tip of the possibilities of how technology can serve people, and that government can use it to serve people more efficiently and improve the quality of the services.
GT: Could you tell us about the city's technology task force -- what does it do? What has it done?
McCaleb: I think it was in February 1995 that we first announced that we were establishing what we call the Mayor's Task Force on Technology. We invited 60 citizens from all areas of the community -- education, health care, business, government -- every area that we could think of, to serve on this task force.
It has served, actually, beyond my expectations of what it could do. One of the best things it did was create a sort of human communication network that was the foundation to build an infrastructure on.
Now, we're in the process of doing that, and we're certainly not anywhere close to being finished. Of course, the nature of technology means it's not as simple as building a building and having it finished. It's going to be an ongoing process because every time technology makes an advancement, we've got to know how to adjust, adapt to it and use it.
There are at least two benefits we've already seen from the task force. First, it created an awareness level in the community for people who didn't even know some of the technologies were here, or that the expertise was here.
Second, it created a spirit of cooperation. Before, the tendency seemed to be to build a wall around yourself or your company, and keep all the information to yourself. Now we're in an information-sharing mode. With more alliances and ways of creating cooperation among the entities, more can be accomplished and everybody wins.
By the way, one of the greatest things that happened as soon as