Even in this advanced technological age of smartphones and computer tablets, the mighty pen remains a critical commodity.

That is, perhaps, attested to by the huge number of pens that disappear from Erie County’s Auto Bureaus – nearly 5,000 a year, according to County Clerk Christopher L. Jacobs, who estimates the cost to county taxpayers at about $1,500 annually, or about 30 cents a pen.

“I found it frustrating to pay so much taxpayer money for pens, so we looked for a creative solution,” Jacobs said.

And that solution was to let the pens pay for themselves through an initiative Jacobs launched whereby local companies are solicited to donate pens with their logos or other advertising on them.

“It was just kind of an idea that came to me,” Jacobs said.

“I was talking to the staff about it, and somebody suggested we just attach the pens to a clipboard. Well, we tried that a couple of years ago, and people started stealing the clipboards.”

Instead, Jacobs got the idea to piggyback on an initiative that was launched by his predecessor, Kathleen C. Hochul, which Jacobs has since expanded on: the county clerk’s “Thank-A-Vet” discount card program.

As part of that veterans program, the County Clerk’s Office – which has the responsibility of keeping copies of honorable discharges from the U.S. military – provides veterans with picture IDs that they can use at various local businesses where they may be entitled to discount items and services.

So far, Jacobs has attracted nearly 500 local businesses to that program, and he has since contacted them to provide the County Clerk’s Office free pens. After the success of the veterans discount card program, Joseph Carubba, president and CEO of Carubba Collision, did not hesitate to take part in Jacobs’ pen donation.

“I think it’s terrific for Chris to continually come up with ideas to save money for the county,” said Carubba, whose company has already donated 3,000 pens to the County Clerk’s Office.

Amherst Alarm, another participant in the county clerk’s “Thank-A-Vet” program, donated 5,000 pens with the company’s advertising on them and an encouragement to “please keep this pen.”

“It’s a very new program, so we don’t know how successful it’s going to be, but we thought it was something worth supporting,” said Timothy M. Creenan, CEO of Amherst Alarm.

Since the County Legislature in April approved a resolution allowing the county clerk to accept donated pens, Jacobs said his office has received more than 10,000, about a year’s supply.

“It’s not an immense savings, but every little bit counts. We spend $3,000 a year on pens, so over two years, that’s $6,000,” Jacobs said. “In these tight financial times, it makes sense to make an effort any time we can. We’ll just keep at it, and hopefully it will be a long time before we have to buy pens.

“The message to the citizens is that we’re doing everything we can to save money for them,” he added.