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Conference to cover Main Street's Y2K issues

With just over 400 days left until January 1, 2000, a group of officials and industry experts will assemble to discuss the impact of the millennium bug.

    With just over 400 days left until January 1, 2000, a large group of government officials and industry experts will assemble next week to discuss how the computer problems brought on by the new century will impact Main Street.

    As part of the Global Y2K Action Day series coordinated by economist and Y2K expert Edward Yardeni, conference participants will look at the likelihood of system malfunctions and failures and how they will disrupt local businesses, governments, and Americans' everyday lives.

    The need for such a focused conference was underscored today by reports in the Chicago Tribune on the state of Illinois Y2K task force's new estimate of $114.4 million to cleanse that state's computer systems of the Year 2000 computer glitch. The amount is 65 percent higher than a cost estimate released late last year.

    Yardeni said he is interested in this area of the Y2K issue because of the realistic value of community action. "We're obviously not going to get any real global or national leadership on the issue, so now we have to deal with it locally and at our businesses and homes," said Yardeni, who is also the chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities .

    Yardeni, who was named by the Wall Street Journal as the top U.S. economic forecaster in 1997, is well-known for his predictions of a year 2000 recession. He believes the downturn could be accompanied by deflation, or a cycle of falling prices.

    The Year 2000 problem, or the millennium bug, boils down to this: Many computer systems use software that tracks dates with only the last two numbers of the year, such as 97 instead of 1997. When 00 comes up for the year 2000, many computers will view it as 1900 instead, potentially leading to failures.

    According to the National Association of State Information Resource Executives' (NASIRE) latest estimates, 23 states are still planning their Year 2000 strategies, while 19 states are now implementing and testing conversions. Four states reported being in both the planning and implementation stages.

    NASIRE, which represents information resource executives and managers from the 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, has targeted the Year 2000 issue as a key initiative. Mike Benzen, the president of NASIRE, will be speaking at the conference, which will be Webcast on Friday, the 400th day before January 1, 2000.

    Yardeni said the date of the conference--November 27-- makes sense. "I thought the day after Thanksgiving is a good time for the conference. Everyone is at home, in their community, and with their families," so it's a good time to address Y2K's impact on all of the above.

    Participants will be advocating listeners to join community action groups to assess vital systems, particularly in local electric power, heating, oil and gas distribution, water supply, sanitation, and telephone service, according to material provided on the conference Web site.