centralized approval process. Now, key employees in each of the citys 16 departments have the authority to enter orders into the system, which automatically routes requests through an approval process and releases purchase orders. Rather than mailing paper purchase orders and checks, the city intends to e-mail purchase orders to suppliers and wire payments directly into vendors accounts.

The new technology results in more purchasing power for individual employees, faster purchases and greater accountability throughout the process, said Vega. "Everything is tracked. Anyone who wishes to know where a certain purchase order stands can look into the system and see whos holding it up or when it was processed."

A New View

Ultimately, Turner believes advanced applications like these are beginning to cast his formerly industrial city in a new light among potential investors and employers. "[Businesses] see us as a city that is enlightened thanks to the utilization of technology," he said. "They see us as a city that they can interface with more efficiently."

Economic Development Director David Thompson already credits Richmonds ERP project with luring a number of technology and medical firms to the community. Among the recent arrivals: DiCon Fiberoptics, a manufacturer of optical networking equipment; QRS Corp., an e-commerce provider for retail businesses; and biotechnology firms Berlex Laboratories and Onyx Pharmaceuticals.

For Turner, the massive project also represents an opportunity to make a positive impact on the community where he grew up. "Its a destiny for me that I didnt plan for," he said. "My plans were to be in other places, but my career led me back here, and Im very grateful that it did."

Steve Towns, Editor Steve Towns  |  Editor

Steve Towns is editor of Government Technology, and executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government Technology,Public 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.