Online Business Registry a Hit
Businesses across the province are giving the online version of the Nova Scotia Business Registry (NSBR) high praise as it marks its first year of operation. More and more people are turning to the online service when they need to renew a business permit or licence or as they start a new business venture.
A variety of transactions, such as business name reservations, business registrations and permit applications and renewals, can be conducted through the registry.
The business registry was launched in October 2001 as a joint venture between Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, the Workers' Compensation Board and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency after discussions with their clients made it clear that a service like this was necessary. The one-stop-shopping format is especially convenient for businesses and entrepreneurs, who deal regularly with all three agencies.
"Business leaders asked for -- and received -- more flexible access to government services and less red tape," said Angus MacIsaac, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. "The Nova Scotia Business Registry makes it easier for business to thrive in this province."
The first online partnership of its kind in Canada, the business registry was expected to serve about one in 10 clients initially.
"Since its inception, the business community has been very receptive and usage has exceeded expectations," said Brenda Morse, NSBR project manager at Service Nova Scotia. "About 15 per cent of our renewals transactions are handled online. The numbers are lower -- but climbing -- for new permit applications."
Many business people do their paperwork outside of normal business hours. A key indicator of the registry's acceptance is the number of transactions that occur outside normal government business hours. More than 11,500 after-hours transactions have been processed since October 2001.
"In fact, we had to reschedule our computer system maintenance because there was so much online activity," said Ms. Morse.
"Nine out of 10 clients said they would use the registry again, according to our user satisfaction surveys," she said. "That's even more impressive when you consider that more than seven out of 10 respondents were new users. In the past, they used to do business with us by phone or mail or in person."
Two people who recently reserved their business names and registered their businesses through the online registry are Julie Nowe of Nowe's Accounting and Income Tax in Amherst and James Smeaton of Highland Multimedia in Antigonish.
"Several years ago, I registered another business the old way," said Ms. Nowe. "I went to the government offices and filled in all of the forms. Using the Nova Scotia Business Registry is so much easier." She set up her business in early November and has already used the registry to reserve a business name for a client.
"Convenience. That's why I chose the NSBR," said Mr. Smeaton. "I run a web-design firm and I like to do most of my business over the Internet. It saves me a lot of time going from Point A to Point B."
While name reservations and business registrations account for many business registry transactions, obtaining permits and licences also represents a large part of the online activity. Currently, business leaders can apply for 39 permits online and new additions are anticipated.
Online Workers' Compensation Board clearance letters are also very popular. Each year, the board receives close to 25,000 requests for clearance letters. Service Nova Scotia estimates that more than 9,000 requests will be processed through the business registry this year.
"Accessing clearance letters online is a significant service improvement for Nova Scotia businesses who need proof that they - - or sub-contractors they hire -- have WCB coverage," said Cathy Belliveau, manager of assessment services for the Workers' Compensation Board. "In some cases, timely access to a clearance letter can determine who gets the contract."
One company that accesses the registry for WCB clearance letters is the Lunenburg construction firm Rikjak Projects Inc.
"We used to request clearance letters from sub-contractors; the NSBR has eliminated a lot of phone and fax tag and gives us more control," said accountant Sherri Aulenback. "It works very well for us."
"The Nova Scotia Business Registry is doing what it set out to do: Deliver government at the speed of business," concluded Ms. Morse.
FOR BROADCAST USE:
Businesses across the province are giving the Nova Scotia Business Registry high praise as it marks its first year of operation.
The business registry is a joint effort between Service Nova Scotia, the Workers' Compensation Board and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.
Businesses use the service to register a company, obtain permits and W-C-B clearance letters and to complete a variety of other business-related tasks.
Nine out of 10 clients have said they would use the online service again, according to customer satisfaction surveys. Seven of 10 were first-time users who used to use the phone, the mail or travel to a government office.