We agree with businesses that, if Beaufort County plans to continue collecting business license fees, business owners should stand to gain.
Representatives of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Lowcountry Economic Alliance are suggesting an intriguing idea of creating an online one-stop shop where business owners could obtain their business licenses and pay annual fees to the county as well as the municipalities in which they operate.
We applaud the concept. Such an approach would help our local businesses -- that employ residents and contribute to the tax base -- navigate the overly-confusing world of fees, applications and permits. While businesses are not complaining about the requirement to pay business license fees, they are frustrated by the amount of proverbial red tape that goes along with it.
We'd encourage local leaders to consider going even further with the one-stop shop concept -- as some other municipalities around the state have done -- and offer as many streamlined services as possible, such as building permits. Some zoning and planning functions could also likely be included.
In an ideal world, businesses would have just one point of contact for any type of information or assistance they needed from the county and the town/city in which they operated. But that's unlikely to happen as the process and permits required vary from one municipality to another.
Still, local officials' goal should be to streamline as many as is possible.
Such an endeavor will require a great deal of cooperation between the counties and municipalities. A model exists to help guide them. Beaufort County already collects taxes for itself, the municipalities and the school district. The partnership simplifies the tax-paying process. Taking a similar tack with licensing and permitting is a logical next step.
New technology means many services could be offered online, minimizing personnel and overhead costs for the county and local governments.
We look forward to continued discussions on a one-stop shop. As the economy continues to rebound and more businesses pop up, an efficient, streamlined system would ease headaches for our businesses and increase the likelihood that government gets the money to which it is entitled.