Southwest Nebraska continues to play part in high-tech future

Monday, July 26, 2004

Two stories in Friday's Gazette show just how far we have come -- and offer a glimpse of how far we might go.

The first, a release from McCook native U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, noted that $3 million was included in the defense bill to continue development of a software program that may be just as important to winning the next war as musket balls or smart bombs were to wars past.

The software bears the cryptic "ExLog21" name and carrying the tongue-twisting role of using "intelligent agent-based software to process large caches of information on the operational status of tactical vehicles, equipment and weapons employed on the battlefield," according to Nelson's release.

The set of electronic instructions, the release continues, "supports autonomic logistics decision-making by accurately modeling and predicting failure probabilities of expeditionary systems, subsystems and key."

Napoleon said that an "army travels on its belly," and it is vital that it have the food, not to mention weapons, ammunition and thousands of other items needed to maintain an effective force.

Software will be put through a workout in the McCook area to make sure it will be up to the task the next time it is put to use in a far-away jungle or desert.

Not that many years ago, local schools got their first personal computers. Now, 21st Century Systems is basing a software development program right here in Southwest Nebraska.

But local computer activities depend on good communications with the outside world, and that's where another Friday story comes in.

Billions of dollars were lost, at least on paper, in the dot-com crash at the turn of the century, but that opened up a golden opportunity for another company with roots in Southwest Nebraska.

On Thursday, Pinpoint Communications Inc. announced that it had completed the purchase of a major fiber optic route between Chicago and Denver, through FiberLink, which it owns along with two other communications companies of Illinois and with funding from a Washington state corporation.

Built in 1999, the modern fiber optic communications line became available following a bankruptcy by its original owners.

As Pinpoint CEO J. Richard Shoemaker said in a news release, the "Denver to Chicago route is jointly owned by MCI and FiberLink LLC and will allow Pinpoint to continue to expand our facilities-based communications services throughout the state of Nebraska, give us the opportunity to connect and potentially offer services beyond the state, and obtain substantial competition pricing power by purchasing services from other network companies located in the major communication hubs of Chicago and Denver."

It's encouraging that companies like Pinpoint and 21st Century have cast such an important vote of confidence in Southwest Nebraska. And, they are only two examples.

With continued confidence and foresight, there's no reason why we can't continue to play a leading role in development of important new systems.

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