HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — In Connecticut, the secretary of the state’s office is not typically known for job creation.
But the major party candidates vying to become the state’s next chief elections official have spent as much time on the campaign trail talking about generating business as they have about casting ballots.
Republican Jerry Farrell and Democrat Denise Merrill say the secretary of the state’s office has a place in job growth, which has been one of the top issues in the competitive races for U.S. Senate and governor.
“All the constitutional offices are going to need to adopt an all-hands-on-deck approach to jumpstart job growth in this state,” said Merrill, 62, the House majority leader. “Everyone from the governor on downward will have to do their part. And surely, there are processes in the secretary of the state’s office that can be streamlined to make starting businesses easier and lead to more jobs.”
Farrell and Merrill are seeking to replace 12-year Democratic incumbent Susan Bysiewicz, who is not seeking re-election.
Connecticut’s secretary of the state’s office, which keeps record of all of the state’s business filings in addition to voting information, reports more than 2,200 businesses closed in the state during the third quarter of 2010. Nearly 8,000 businesses have closed in the state this year, as of September.
Farrell, 42, the commissioner of the state department of consumer protection for the last four years, said he would redeploy part of the office’s existing staff to create a “business action center.” He said that would allow the secretary of the state’s office to act as a one-stop shop where potential entrepreneurs can register their businesses and get assistance obtaining loans, getting proper licenses and tying up other loose ends to get their venture up and running.
“There are lots of questions that, if you’re new to business, you’re not even going to have these things on your radar,” Farrell said. “Yet, the secretary of the state’s office is in a perfect position to make that process easier for people.”
Merrill, of Mansfield, who has spent 17 years in the state legislature, said the secretary of the state could act as more of a business advocate. She envisions an all-encompassing business help center similar to Farrell’s, but using a volunteer staff.
She also said she’d like put online many of the office’s business service functions, such as registration.
“I believe things should be simple,” Merrill said. “I see the office as being more of a consumer-oriented agency and the easier we make it for small businesses to get off the ground, the more of them that will grow in the state.”
Bysiewicz said the office of secretary of the state has made strides during her tenure.
She said many forms entrepreneurs need to register a business can be printed from the secretary of the state’s website.
She said business records can also be found on the site, as well as information on additional resources for business start-ups.
“When I first came here all of the business registration information was on tissue paper in plastic tubs on the floor of the office,” Bysiewicz said. “I’d like to think we’ve made things easier since then.”
Farrell and Merrill said despite their focus on job growth, one of their top priorities is finding ways to increasing Connecticut voter turnout.
Both candidates suggest expanding voting options as a way to increase participation.
Farrell said he would look into modifying the state’s absentee ballot process and added he would advocate for improving Connecticut’s voting machines and voting processes for the disabled and military oversees.
Merrill said she would like to have voter registration online and would explore Election Day registration and early voting.
Both candidates said they would like to upgrade the technology in the secretary of the state’s office and put more information online, which they believe will cut down on operation expenses.
Bysiewicz says the role the secretary of the state plays in future state job creation will heavily depend on the winner of the November election.
“I think it’s a very creative role,” she said. “The next chapter hasn’t been written yet, but the job is going to be as big of a job as the next secretary makes it.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)