Staff Photo: Erin Evans
Secretary of State Brian Kemp addresses the crowd at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce, held at DeKalb Technical College.
COVINGTON — Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he's got firsthand knowledge of how important small business owners are to the state's economy and how tough things are for them right now.
The owner of Kemp Properties, a small business specializing in real estate investments and property management, Kemp told attendees at the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Annual Meeting that he's had to tighten his company's belt the same as other business owners across the state. He said he's applied that same strategy since taking over the Secretary of State's Office in 2010, overseeing $2.9 million in budget cuts and reducing staff by nearly 30 percent while keeping productivity the same. Kemp has also consolidated the Securities and Business Regulation Division with the Professional Licensing Boards Division in Macon, saving taxpayers $500,000.
"We're doing more with less just like you are," he said.
Kemp said he's committed to listening to concerns and suggestions of small business owners and has implemented a feature on the Secretary of State's website where they can share ideas on how to help small businesses. The feature can be accessed at www.sos.georgia.gov by clicking on "Cut the Red Tape."
"You are where the rubber meets the road. Your ideas do matter, and you do have people in the state that will listen to you," he said.
Kemp said his office has made it easier for businesses to register with the Corporations Division by offering registration and annual renewals online and e-mail renewal notices. The office is also trying to protect businesses from corporate identity theft by sending e-mail alerts whenever information is changed online.
Another new online feature is called MVP and provides citizens with poll locations, sample ballots and other election information. Kemp said his next focus will be on how to reduce election costs while still protecting the process.
Kemp said Newton County has a lot of good things to offer, including an abundant water supply, higher education options, great health care, an arts program and a tie to the movie industry that promotes tourism. He said he is especially impressed by the county's strong manufacturing base.
"I live in Athens and that's a very progressive community that doesn't necessarily like that type of business. I understand how important it is for people to have jobs, even $10- or $12-an-hour jobs," he said.
A former state senator, Kemp was sworn in as secretary of state in January 2010. Among the office's wide-ranging responsibilities, the Secretary of State is charged with conducting efficient and secure elections, the registration of corporations and the regulation of securities and professional license holders. The office also oversees the Georgia Archives and the Capitol Museum.