Friday, August 11, 2000

City Hall looks to embrace dot-coms

By John Byczkowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In her bright yellow “Cincinnati Fast Break” T-shirt, Councilwoman Alicia Reece leaned on the bar at Neon's in Over-the-Rhine, discussing why City Hall should embrace the New Economy.

        “The New Economy is becoming a way of life,” Ms. Reece said. With a rising generation of citizens as accustomed to clicking blue links as they are to punching telephones, “government has to adapt.”

        Ms. Reece is a part of the New Economy Project Team, a group of people from business, government and academia that Thursday

        launched a 10-week blitz to identify ways City Hall can work better with the wired world.

        Cincinnati officials were only too happy to share the stage in the city's Digital Rhine with some leaders of local dot-coms.

        “I don't think the city has done enough to make itself inviting to high-tech companies, but I think that's also true of the region,” Mayor Charlie Luken said.

        Not that the city should be picking winners and losers, but he said City Hall can do a lot to cut the red tape that confronts businesses.

        “I think we can all put a much better face on the city,” he said.

        But Old Economy businesses have complained for years about the unresponsiveness of Cincinnati's city government in economic development. Why the urgency when New Economy companies speak up?

        “You've got on the scene a set of people whose expectations are different,” said Dan Meyer, CEO of software company Giage Inc. and chairman of the project. “That's why things will change.”

        Mr. Meyer said the “fast break” team would meet weekly to look for ways city government could be more accommodating to business start-ups, and also for ways City Hall can make its services accessible online. Initiatives will involve improving the supply of talent, economic development and infrastructure. The group wants City Hall to help promote Cincinnati “as a New Economy leader,” he said.

        Mr. Luken pointed to the recent traffic engineering debacle as an example of a city function that could be improved by technology. “We're keeping road conditions (records) on 3-by-5 cards,” he said.

        Computers and networks may allow the problems that businesses have complained about for years to be fixed, said group member Johnathan Holifield, vice president of new economy enterprise at the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

        “Now you have the technology to alleviate the problem,” he said. “Use it.”


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