This is part of a series of articles on the duties and responsibilities of municipal employees. For this article, we spoke with four business license administrators from across the state about the changes they have witnessed in the field of business licensing during their tenure, as well as some of the challenges and rewards of the job.
Ken Mullinax has been the City of Anderson’s business license/risk management administrator for the past 14 years. He also spent two years as the outside business license inspector and previously worked in the private sector for BMW Manufacturing and Michelin.
“I get to work with good people here at the City of Anderson who want to provide a good place for our citizens to work and live.”
Ken Mullinax, City of Anderson’s business license/risk management administrator
Mullinax pointed to several trends he and other business licensing officials have experienced. Cities have become more dependent on business license revenue to provide services (second to property taxes), according to Mullinax. He also explained it has become more difficult to predict business license revenues due to the downturn in the economy.
Another challenge Mullinax faces involves collecting delinquent license and hospitality taxes. His office started collecting hospitality taxes in 2004, Mullinax said.
In spite of the challenges, he enjoys the experience of seeing how local government works. “I get to work with good people here at the City of Anderson who want to provide a good place for our citizens to work and live,” Mullinax said.
Becki Ard is the director of business license for the City of Sumter. Ard has been in the Business License Department for 27 years. She started off working in the Water Department in 1983 after graduating from Winthrop University then moved to the Business License Department in 1986.
“The most rewarding part of my job is to make a skeptical customer leave the office feeling good about their experience with us …”
Becki Ard, director of business license for the City of Sumter
Over the years, Ard has seen a number of changes but says that technology stands out the most.
“When I first started, we used to have written receipts, and we calculated all of the fees on a calculator,” she said. “Now this is all handled by a computer, and it makes things much easier.”
Ard said her job is complicated by administering business licensing for both the city and the county. Ard’s office began collecting the tax for the county in 1990.
She said it’s sometimes difficult to deal with customers who don’t want to pay fees and who often ask her, “What am I getting by paying for this?” But she said she feels satisfied when she’s able to resolve their questions.
“The most rewarding part of my job is to make a skeptical customer leave the office feeling good about their experience with us and being proud to have a business license from the City or County of Sumter,” she said.
Patricia Jones has been the business license clerk in Batesburg-Leesville since 2001. She has worked for the town for 18 years, previously serving as an assistant clerk.
Since 2001, Patricia Jones has seen continuous growth and changes in the types of businesses
seeking licenses in Batesburg-Leesville.
Since 2001, Jones said she has seen continuous growth and changes in the types of businesses seeking licenses. For instance, the number of people working from home via the Internet has grown exponentially, she said. The town also has seen a rise in the questions from the public about who is responsible for controlling businesses such as tattoo parlors and sexually oriented businesses. She occasionally has to steer complaints and concerns to DHEC and LLR.
It’s a challenge to come up with a fee schedule that is satisfactory to everyone, Jones said, but she always enjoys interacting with business owners.
“I always let them know that we’re appreciative of them doing business here,” she said. “I try to do everything I can to assist them and make them feel good about having their business here.”
Frances Adcock has worked for the City of Bennettsville for 15 years, and has been the business license official for the past 13.
Adcock has seen technology make an impact on her job. When she started, the business licensing process was more basic, now many things are automatic and online. Bennettsville also takes credit cards these days.
Bennettsville officials also have updated their ordinances to fit the times. The old version lost its relevance because it had no mention of computers or technology, she said. In recent years, the city updated its classification system from the Standard Industrial Classification system codes to the North American Industry Classification System codes, which are more up-to-date, she said.
Adcock said that in her small community, one of the challenges she faces is that some people are interested in starting a business but have no knowledge of how to proceed. She works with them to steer them in the right direction and provide them the information they need.
Adcock’s job comes with some unexpected duties. Because the city doesn’t have a chamber of commerce, she serves as a sort of personal business directory. She answers many questions about the types of businesses in town and refers people to local services that are available.
Adcock enjoys meeting all the new business owners. “I’m usually the first face they see,” she said. “I try to encourage them and let them know we’re happy they’re here.”