One needn't look far to see that the world is changing.

Most high-paying manufacturing jobs in the United States moved overseas years ago. Bookkeepers, secretaries and telephone operators largely have been replaced by technology. Now even analytic skills such as basic computer programming are being off-shored at an alarming rate.

Economists refer to this transition as "moving up the hierarchy of human talents." Throughout the nation's history, our free-market economy has rewarded ever more sophisticated human talents. Muscle power on the farm gave way to manual dexterity needed to operate Industrial Age machinery. Repetitive office tasks were automated or shifted to lower-cost labor as employers sought workers who could analyze and interpret information.

Now the U.S. economy is in the throes of yet another shift, according to W. Michael Cox, chief economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, who recently spoke at Government Technology's GTC Southwest in Austin, Texas.

The knowledge economy steadily is morphing into the creative economy, thanks to the Internet and other technologies, Cox contends.

"Knowledge now is cheap. It's become a commodity," he said. "Now the valuable thing is imagining what we can do with that information."

What does any of this have to do with Government Technology's annual Top 25 issue? Just this: Governments will play a central role in creating environments that attract innovative companies and talented, highly mobile workers.

Our 2005 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers stand at the economic transition's forefront. They are elected officials who see technology as an imperative for success. They are IT officials working to make government more responsive and less costly. They are advisers and commentators who've shaped opinions and policies on these vital issues.

Governments must help build connected and intelligent communities that form a foundation for the imagination age. Members of our 2005 Top 25 are laying the groundwork.