Just one month ago, entrepreneurs in Maryland who wanted to register a new business had to wait up to 10 weeks to receive a response to their filing. The time lag and red tape were not effectively supporting the 47,000 new businesses that register in the state each year.
“One might characterize the old process by the three P’s — paper, postal mail and patience,” said Elliot H. Schlanger, Maryland secretary of Information Technology. “Business owners had to fill out paper forms and hand deliver, fax or mail them to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation in Baltimore.”
As a part of Maryland Made Easy, a program started by Gov. Martin O’Malley to streamline business regulations and permit processes, the state launched an online business licensing system that makes it easier to do business.
“The outcome is crystal clear,” Schlanger said. “What took weeks or even months, now takes days.”
In a press conference on Jan. 14 to unveil the new online portal, O’Malley acknowledged entrepreneur Mike Bendler who used the new system and received a response in five minutes.
“The most important job we create is the next job,” the governor said during the press conference. “Progress is a choice. Job creation is a choice. Creating the conditions that allow our businesses to grow and prosper is a choice.”
The one-stop business portal was soft-launched three weeks prior to the governor’s announcement. There was no advertising during the pre-launch, and more than 100 new businesses were successfully filed and registered, in a fraction of the time previously required.
In its conceptual stage, Schlanger said that the Central Business Licensing system could have been a difficult project, due to its complexity. The project required re-engineering antiquated business processes, integrating with several legacy information systems, and collaborating with multiple state agencies and elected officials.
The state partnered with e-government company NIC to develop a one-stop business portal. NIC incorporated many features and best practices from prior implementations — in Utah, Tennessee, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Kentucky — while at the same time customizing Maryland business registration services to meet local statutes and requirements. From concept to production, the project was created in less than one year.
Maryland business owners can use the new system to register as sole proprietorships, general partnerships, limited liability companies, stock corporations, tax-exempt non-stock corporations and close corporations. They can use the online portal to:
Online filers pay a $4.50 convenience fee to finance the maintenance of the website. The portal was created at no cost to taxpayers as a part of NIC’s self-funded transaction model. As explained on NIC’s website, transaction fees pay for local NIC personnel, and future online infrastructure projects.
Schlanger said that Maryland customers expect their government to be open for business 24/7. The new portal is an example of how Maryland government strives to be responsive to its constituents so they can conduct their business more quickly online, rather than wait in line.
“We are creating and promoting a more business-friendly climate in the state of Maryland,” Schlanger said, “which ultimately attracts more business enterprise to the state. That means more jobs, more revenue and a strengthening economy.”
Maryland state capitol in Annapolis. Photo by Jessica Mulholland.