Carnahan, area business owners exchange ideas

Friday, November 4, 2005

Businessmen and women told Missouri's secretary of state that paperwork should be synchronized.

Cape Girardeau area business owners told Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan Thursday that synchronizing annual registrations with other government paperwork would help reduce the regulatory workload placed on small businesses.

Carnahan, visiting the chamber of commerce, heard ideas for cutting red tape and offered a few of her own. The best ideas generated from the event, which is similar to others planned across the state, will either be put directly into action or become part of a legislative proposal, Carnahan said.

The office, and especially the Web site maintained by the office, should be a clearinghouse for information about business start-ups and regulatory compliance, Carnahan said.

Every business needs to register with the Department of Revenue for tax purposes and the Division of Employment Security to comply with unemployment insurance rules, she noted. Information filed with the secretary of state's office, she said, could be automatically forwarded to those agencies.

"We didn't think these ideas up," Carnahan said. "We looked around to see what some of the most innovative ideas are from around the country."

Every corporation, partnership or other business must file an annual registration with Carnahan's office. New businesses file as well, with the registrations listing corporate officers and board members.

Registration should be a late step in forming a business, said Buzz Sutherland, director of the Small Business Development Center at Southeast Missouri State University. The secretary of state's office could provide links to development centers and information about what potential new enterprise owners should know before plunging into business, he said.

One idea that didn't receive the best reception was to create a clearinghouse for access to banks on the Secretary of State's Web site. Matt Kitzi, director of corporations, suggested that such links would make capital easier to find.

But Bill Burch, of Burch Food Service in Sikeston, said small businesses are better off with ties to local bankers. "What a local businessman needs is a good banker," Burch said. "Someone who knows you and is going to stick with you in a downturn."

Since taking office in January, Carnahan said she has pushed the use of the Internet to aid businesses. The number of businesses making their registration on-line has increased and the use of computerized registration was expanded to limited liability companies.

Changing the date when registrations are due, however, would require a change in law, said Carol Fischer, deputy secretary for business services. Registrations must be filed annually in the month when a business originally incorporated.

The dozen business owners attending nodded in agreement when Carnahan suggested that registration could become a chore performed every other year. The costs would remain the same but the paperwork would be cut in half, she said.

The thrust of her effort, Carnahan said, is to give small business owners more time to concentrate on making money rather than regulation. "The key for small businesses interacting with state government is to have as little of it as possible," she said.

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