Powerful Partners

Powerful Partners

by / March 28, 2005
The photos in this month's cover story reveal two important things about Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

One, the image of Granholm working closely with state CIO Teresa Takai is no illusion. In a wide-ranging interview, the two easily finished each other's sentences. Takai clearly enjoys solid backing from her chief executive. Granholm says hiring Takai was her smartest IT decision.

Two, the computer Granholm is using is no prop. It's the governor's own trusty wireless notebook, hastily retrieved from her car for the picture. Granholm uses technology and knows what it can do.

Granholm's support for her CIO and her intuitive grasp of technology's potential are a powerful combination. If there's a secret to Michigan's IT success, this may be it.

Overheated talk about how technology magically cures any number of government ills has cooled over the past few years -- and rightly so. That view conveniently ignored the policy changes, cultural upheaval and plain old hard work that accompany using IT to re-engineer government operations.

Granholm's vision for technology is both practical and forward-looking, and she and Takai have formed a partnership that delivers results.

Michigan spent several tough years centralizing IT operations within the Department of Information Technology. Now, Michigan uses technology dollars more efficiently through consolidated contracts, bulk purchasing and shared IT services. A new Web-based service even invites localities to piggyback on state purchases, boosting buying power for smaller communities.

Those efforts earned Michigan plenty of recognition for intelligent and innovative use of technology, including a first-place ranking in the Center for Digital Government's Digital States Survey for 2004.

Now comes the even harder part: Granholm believes Michigan's economic future hinges on the state's ability to grow high-tech employment and develop a computer-savvy work force. In November, the governor will ask voters to approve a $2 billion measure designed to diversify Michigan's economy. She also set a goal of spreading broadband Internet access throughout the state by 2007.

There's little argument that Michigan's rust-belt economy needs polishing. The state has lost thousands of high-paying manufacturing jobs since 2000. Of course, the success of Granholm's technology-based economic development efforts remains to be seen.

But based on the track record compiled by the governor and her CIO so far, you may not want to bet against them.
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