published Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Georgia labor commissioner seeks modern technology

by Andy Johns

ROCK SPRING, Ga. — Georgia's labor commissioner says his department's investment in technology will take some of the paperwork off of business owners and make the office more "business friendly."

Speaking at a Walker County Chamber of Commerce meeting, Commissioner Mark Butler said the department could streamline things for business owners with online forms and other services.

"The only reason they still sell fax machines in the state of Georgia is because of the Department of Labor," Butler joked.

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, introduced Butler and said he was proud of the changes the former legislator was making to "put us on the right track." Butler took over for longtime commissioner Michael Thurmond, a Democrat who resigned to run an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Butler, a self-described technology "geek," said he was shocked at the computers in the department's offices.

"It is green screens," he said. "It looks like DOS."

Everything from spreadsheets to email is out of date, he said, drawing a chuckle from the crowd when he described the frustrating software.

"It's not so funny if you're trying to email with it," he said.

Butler acknowledged the budget it tight, but said grant money was available for some of the upgrades. Much of the hardware was upgraded with stimulus money under Thurmond, so the main expense would be software.

With the proper system, Butler said, the data could be used proactively to spot trends and pattern job training programs around forecasted demand. He also said the antiquated technology slows response time, which hurts customer service.

New software, he said, would allow the department's website to put job seekers and employers together through job ads and have the ability to post resumes.

"It's time the Department of Labor starts acting like a helper to business, not a hindrance," he said.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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