HELENA – As of this month, businesses filing incorporation papers in Montana must do so digitally – a change that Secretary of State Corey Stapleton says will be a big improvement for businesses and the state.
“When we do (this) efficiently, it makes it easier for businesses to create capital, to hire people,” he told MTN News Tuesday. “But it also authenticates our businesses here in the state with others, not just in the country, but even around the world.”
About 160,000 businesses register each year in Montana with the secretary of state’s office, listing the business name, address and any officers or agents.
Until this month, businesses could file online or via paper. Now, paper filings have ended and everything is digital, either over the Internet or via a mobile device, such as a smart phone.
Under the old system, mistakes often were made and had to be corrected, costing both the state and businesses time and money, Stapleton said.
The new system won’t accept erroneously filed information, so the accounts will be “error free,” he said.
The information also is available to the public and other businesses, via the secretary of state website.
A digital system had been installed several years ago by a contractor, but it never had been required to be used for all filings. The system also was cumbersome and didn’t always work well, Stapleton said.
He said that earlier this year, his office met with the contractor about fixing and improving the system. His staff also visited with Colorado’s secretary of state about its system, which is similar to the one Montana now has.
“Now, it’s user-friendly, and it looks normal,” Stapleton said. “Our focus has become the public.”
Stapleton, who became secretary of state in January, said while business filings may be a relatively obscure function of government, it’s important that Montana have a modern, Internet-based system that makes things more efficient for business and the public.
“Our businesses, our agricultural goods, our mining – all of those things – most of the people in the world won’t see them except through the Internet,” he said. “We’ve got to have a top-notch, best-in-class interface with those governments, with those companies, and that’s what we’ve done.”