Statewide business license process to be streamlined?

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — Business leaders are hopeful regulations streamlining the business licensing process through the state will be approved soon.

The topic was discussed at a recent small business roundtable hosted by the Oconee Pickens Chamber Coalition.


Business owners expressed frustration with the process, especially those who do business in multiple Upstate cities, who have to get business licenses in each city or town that they do business in.

Rates that vary from city to city are also frustrating, business owners agreed.

Kim Smagala, executive director of the Greater Pickens Chamber of Commerce and a coalition member, said the problem is compounded by the fact that many municipalities do not accept online payments for licenses, forcing business owners to travel from one to the other to pay.

Another problem is that different locations have different expiration and renewal dates for their business licenses, complicating bookkeeping for business owners.

Roy Stoddard, the mayor of Six Mile and a member of the coalition, said the business licensing issue has been in the legislature for the past two years now.

“I think it’s finally coming to a head,” Stoddard said.

The legislation would standardize the process.

“Every municipality would have to have the same effective date for business licensing,” Stoddard said. “They must all have the same rate tables that apply across the board throughout the state.”

The change to the process would allow business licenses to be applied and paid for at one location, eliminating the need to deal with multiple local governments. Funds would then be transferred to the proper location.

“It will be the same throughout the state, so you don’t have to pick and choose,” Stoddard said. “You can go to one outfit and take care of it throughout the year. All of this is going to be boiled down, so there’s one way to get a business licenses throughout the state.”

Doug Tate said that will be a big improvement, especially for those who do contract work or who, like himself, host multiple businesses in one location.

“Right now, in the city of Pickens, if I hire a contractor to work in my building, he has to have a business license from the city of Pickens to work inside my building,” Tate said. “So I have a business license, he has a business license, everybody that’s in my building has a business license.”

“If licensing was streamlined, you’d only have to go to one place,” Smagala said. “It makes it harder when you’re a business owner and trying to do things, this getting tacked on, one after another.”

Stoddard said the issue “will be taken up in 2017 and passed.”

Bill Caruthers with the Oconee Pickens Chamber Coalition said legislation almost passed in the most recent session.

“How this thing fell off the table at the end of the last session, I don’t know,” he said.

“I think everyone is on board now,” Stoddard said.

David Lane, president and CEO of the Greater Clemson Area Chamber of Commerce, said one issue that has to be worked out is which agency — the Department of Revenue or the Municipal Association — will handle the business license funds.

Stoddard said he believes the Department of Revenue does not need to be handling the business license funding.

“We don’t want any more bureaucracies,” he said.

A third party could collect and distribute the funds, Lane said.

One business owner worried that this would make business license fees go up, to pay for additional overhead at agencies.

Lane said he didn’t think that would happen, that there would be other savings that would prevent that.

It may seem like a small issue, but red-tape situations like this one hurt growth throughout the state, Lane said. It’s an issue that impacts businesses both large and small, he said.

“It hurts business a lot,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of progress made, just getting the parties talking,” Lane said. “We’re on it.”

He said he appreciated hearing feedback from business leaders, as it allows chamber leaders to continue to put pressure on legislators on this and other issues.

“It’s the smaller communities that are really saying, ‘Come on, let’s get something done,’” Lane said.

Smagala said she would look into how Pickens’ business license rates compare to other municipalities.

“That’s something to look into, to see how we stack up, what makes Pickens more competitive compared to other cities,” she said. “That’s a good marketing tool later on, for growing.”