Photo by Heather Middleton
By Jason A. Smith
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said his office is utilizing technology, in an effort to streamline government operations in the state.
In a meeting with the Rotary Club of Henry County on Monday, Kemp outlined ongoing measures being taken in his department. The secretary of state, who was a small-business owner prior to his foray into politics in 2002, said he is focused on a pair of overall objectives to benefit Georgians.
"Number one, I wanted to use technology to really continue to make our office more efficient, and streamline it to make it easier for people to do business with our office, and save taxpayers' money," said Kemp, 47, of Athens. "I also wanted to be a part of the economic-development effort for the state. When we've got 10 percent unemployment in Georgia, we need an 'all hands on deck' approach to economic development, from a state government perspective.
"I want to be part of that team, and to, specifically, try to help small-business owners." This approach, Kemp said, is one reason he came to Henry County to meet with leaders in the government and business communities. He visited the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, as well as the county's Elections and Registration Office, before meeting with the Rotary Club.
"I've tried to not be a secretary of state that sits behind my desk at the Gold Dome, but gets out and talks to people, gets feedback," he said. "I believe that government should be listening to the people it serves, not telling them what to do."
Kemp said his biggest accomplishment, since taking office 14 months ago, centers on streamlining his department's daily operations. That element alone, he explained, has helped to cut costs for the state. "We've reduced our budget over $3 million," he said. "Our budget's only about $24 to $25 million dollars, so that's a pretty substantial amount. We've actually reduced our personnel over 30 percent, over the last five years, but we're still doing the same amount of work. So, we've become more efficient, saving taxpayer dollars."
The secretary of state added that his staff redesigned the Corporations Web site at his office, to create an easier process for renewing or starting a business, online. This procedure, said Kemp, has increased in popularity among business owners over the last year, and has improved communication with entrepreneurs in the state.
"When we started our renewal period last year ... we had about 50,000 e-mail addresses out of over half a million corporations," he said. "At the end of the renewal period, we had 384,000 e-mail addresses -- about 82 percent. This year, we'll continue to get more of those folks that we don't have an e-mail address for.
"The e-mail address allows us to communicate with those folks easier and faster," Kemp continued. "We don't have to mail postcard reminders, so we're saving on postage and printing costs, if we can shoot an e-mail with a link that somebody can click on, and it renews their corporation."
The Secretary of State's Office is able to save $250,000 a year in postage and printing costs, through communicating via e-mail with business owners in Georgia, according to Kemp. He said his office has adopted similar measures, pertaining to its licensing division in Macon.
Rotary Club President Kerry Arnold said he liked what he heard from Kemp, regarding economically sound practices at the state level.
"I was glad to hear of the cost-cutting ... aspects of the Secretary of State's Office," said Arnold. "In our family budgets, and in our companies, we've all cut our expenses, so we can operate more efficiently. I'm glad to hear that our state government, is interested in the same things for their departments as well."