State creating one-stop shop for businesses

GeauxBiz allows entrepreneurs to file paperwork to start companies in La.

With the click of a mouse, small businesses soon will be able to set up shop in Louisiana without scurrying among state agencies to file the necessary paperwork.

GeauxBiz will allow entrepreneurs to create a business name, get a state tax identification number and build an unemployment insurance account via the Internet. The $2.8 million project builds upon a technology tool with a similarly Cajun-themed name. GeauxVote — the “eaux” is a play on the O sound of the letter combination found in Acadian surnames such as Boudreaux — put more elections-related paperwork online. GeauxBiz will focus on businesses.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Thursday that his goal with GeauxBiz is to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and cut out duplications across state government. Startup business tasks involving Schedler’s office, the Louisiana Workforce Commission and the state Department of Revenue now will be on a single website.

“We’re taking a baby step here, but once we get the infrastructure ... the sky’s the limit here,” Schedler said.

Through legislation, the Secretary of State’s Office increased fees associated with filings and annual reports for corporations, limited liability companies, nonprofits, trade names, trademarks and service marks to pay for the project. Money is needed for the website development, software, servers and other expenses.

GCR, of New Orleans, is handling the consulting work that will make the website a reality. It is scheduled to be up and running in 2015.

Renee Amar, director of the the small-business council for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said the website should take some of the mystery out of starting a new business. She said that will help both Louisiana natives and businesses looking to locate here.

“Any time they automate a process, make it easier, a little more seamless, especially for small businesses ... that’s always a great thing,” Amar said.

State Rep. Walt Leger III, who sponsored the fee increase that funded the project, said state officials should make it as easy as possible for businesses to incorporate, file paperwork and maintain good standing. Leger, a lawyer, said people should be able to form businesses without needing to seek legal advice on the mechanics.

“It’s going to make it a lot easier for startups and entrepreneurs,” said Leger, D-New Orleans.

Other states already have single-stop portals like the one envisioned for Louisiana. Utah has a sophisticated system that allows business owners to manage registrations across multiple state agencies, including the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and the Utah State Tax Commission. Tennessee’s portal is geared toward new businesses.

Employees at the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office visited Utah and North Carolina to learn about potential problems with setting up a website for businesses.

Schedler said savings will be achieved through no longer needing front office staff to greet and assist prospective business owners. He said he hopes state worker numbers can be trimmed through retirement and other natural departures.

Once the kinks in the website are worked out, Schedler said, the state can start adding more services, such as environmental quality license applications. The idea is to move more and more functions that used to require a postage stamp onto the Internet.

Tim Barfield, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue, said a bunch of features could be rolled into the new website. He said businesses also need health care licenses and local tax records.

“It’s a simple but great concept,” he said.