Technology taking root

Friday, June 6, 2003

In the past few weeks, residents of this region have learned that a software project with breakthrough potential is poised to come to McCook. We began to sense something big was on the horizon upon hearing the name of the company spearheading the project. It's 21st Century Systems, a firm which started in New York, and is home-based in Omaha. The firm also has offices in Washington, D.C.; Bremerton, Wash.; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

With $3 million in funding, which is part of the U.S. Department of Defense authorization bill, the company will set up a testing center in Southwest Nebraska. The purpose will be to evaluate software which will probe, and pinpoint, all parts and problems on a military vehicle or piece of equipment.

Whew! Talk about cutting-edge technology! It sounds super high tech, and it is. Just think of the tremendous advantage this technology would be to military operations in the future, should the system prove to be practical.

The fancy way of saying it is EXLOG21. That stands for "Expeditionary Logistics for the 21st Century." What it amounts to is that testing will be done on vehicles to show whether the software can effectively probe and point out problems when military equipment is on the move. If the premise proves possible and practical, future military operations will be greatly enhanced.

Soon after the company started looking for an appropriate testing location, Jeffrey Hicks, 21st's executive vice president, happened to mention the need for a site to U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson. The two men encountered each other while on an airline flight from Omaha to Washington, D.C. After hearing about the 21st Century's quest for a test site, the senator put the company in touch with Jerda Garey, mayor of McCook. As it turned out, Southwest Nebraska was exactly the kind of area 21st Century Systems was looking for. The company especially liked the varying weather conditions here and the rugged canyons and hilly terrain in the surrounding area.

So, one thing led to another, and on May 23, 2003, the $3 million in funding for the project received Senate approval. The bill is now at the conference level, with the Senate and House of Representatives hammering out final details before passage into law.

To bring this project to fruition, 21st Century Systems is working closely with McCook Community College and Company B of the 735th Transportation unit.

"The cooperation we have received has been outstanding," Hicks said. In addition to the college and the guard unit, he commended 21st Century's founder, Dr. Alexander Stoyen, as well as the McCook Economic Development Corp., the McCook Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Garey, Sen. Nelson and the citizens of the area for their support and encouragement throughout the planning and funding process.

This project could be the start of something big. Testing done here could be of long-lasting significance for the military -- and, perhaps, in time -- for private enterprise.

Similar breakthroughs have happened in the Silicon Valley and at Oak Ridge. Why not in the Golden Plains, as well?

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