By most accounts, McDuffie County has been living in the technological past when it comes to the websites that represent different facets of the county. Those times may soon be over, thanks to the McDuffie County and City of Thomson Information Technology Department.
A plan to consolidate the web sites of Thomson, McDuffie County, the Tourism Department, the Industrial Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce has been met with approval at all levels. Both the Thomson City Council and the County Commission will formally vote on the project during their next meetings.
The plan involves eliminating the splintered websites of the different governmental agencies within McDuffie County and creating a web portal to allow access to all of them. A more unified logo design would also be included.
"(The websites) have never all been going in the same direction, let alone have any conformity that unifies who they are, what they're doing and what they're trying to accomplish," said Kelly Evans, director of the Information Technology Department.
The idea was spurred by the lack of information found during Mrs. Evans' visits to other counties' websites. She said what she plans on accomplishing doesn't really exist right now which would put McDuffie County on the cutting edge.
"With all these websites, especially medium to small county websites, if they exist they are done as an afterthought," Mrs. Evans said. "So the more we went looking for people who had done it purposefully and strategically ... they just weren't there."
The web portal will be one central location on the web that would include updated information from agencies within the county. It will have information for citizens and those looking to locate business and industry here.
"I think if it works it will be a great asset for us. It will make us look good," said Carolyn Gilbert, director of the Chamber of Commerce. "People are going to the internet. We don't get nearly as many newcomer package requests because people go to our website to look for us."
One reason officials are eager to get the web portal started is that industries often look first at a county's website to consider locating there. Officials think the better the website, the better the chances of attracting industry.
"A lot of the people that you're dealing with, they'll go to the website right off, and they'll look and it and get their first impression, good or bad, from that point," said Thomson City Councilman Mike Carrington.
"Technology has come along so much faster; it's gotten to the point that it's time for us to do it correctly and have it maintained correctly and updated correctly," Mr. Carrington said.
But it's not just businesses that are driving the redesign. The new portal may also allow citizens to make tax payments and search documents online, something few other counties have available, according to Mrs. Evans.
The cost of the project would be $27,800 up front and $6,900 each year for maintenance. The new web portal, once approved, will be scheduled for completion in January of 2005.