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Letters: ND should be better prepared to really be ‘open for business’

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North Dakota has the most robust economy in the nation. As the initial access point for business, the secretary of state’s office needs 24/7 online and on-time business services that are simplified, streamlined, modernized and responsive to the needs of businesses. And we need a secretary of state willing to rise to the challenge.

With the current long wait times for business filings and the inability to perform simple tasks online, the office needs more efficiency and greater convenience for businesses. That means innovating and embracing 21st century technology.

To say the secretary of state has experienced multiple challenges in bringing his office into the modern era is an understatement. Despite seemingly endless work on a technology project, the current website remains confusing, difficult to navigate and devoid of most online functions.

The office needs modernization with the integration of online payments, filings and an online tracking system so businesses can follow the progress of their filings. Expedited or “priority” service options would help time-strapped businesses as would tech-forward features such as online notification of state business filing requirements and the ability to save data to populate multiple forums and eliminate repetitive data entry. These options would streamline businesses’ services and would be valuable for small businesses that often self-manage their government transactions.

Not all innovation has to be technological. Sometimes it is just common sense. For example, Secretary Al Jaeger closed the office in 2012 because he fell so far behind in processing business filings. Instead, extending office hours and offering satellite services in the eastern and western part of the state to manage increased business activity would have been preferable.

With our economy growing, the secretary of state needs to embrace innovation and an operational strategy that reflects the new normal and gives businesses what they need and consumers demand.

Fairfield, Bismarck, is Democratic candidate for N.D. secretary of state.

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