Recently, I had occasion to interact with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. I had formed an LLC, Chinaberry Press, LLC, without checking to see if the name was copyrighted or trademarked. After a short, but informative telephone conversation with an attorney representing a party who felt that I was in fact violating their trademark, I decided that I’d be wise to change the name of the LLC to something else. Like the farmer closing the barn door after the horse was gone, I consulted a copyright/trademark attorney and we agreed that Front Porch Press, LLC was indeed available. All I needed to do was file a request for a name change with the clerk in Lee County, who would forward the paperwork to Montgomery and the Alabama Secretary of State. My attorney suggested that I pay an extra hundred dollars to have it expedited. This was done in early November of 2011.
In mid December, I went to my bank and made application to change the Chinaberry Press checking account to Front Porch Press and they informed me that it would be necessary for me to secure a new Federal Tax ID number for Front Porch. Mary, my faithful assistant in all matters relating to taxing agencies, accepted this task. She contacted the IRS and made the request for a number for Front Porch Press. The IRS said that they would issues the number as soon as they verified the existence of the LLC by going on line and querying the Secretary of State of Alabama.
The holidays came and went and sometime in January I decided to go back to the bank and make the necessary changes. Guess what? No tax ID number, no new checking account. Mary checked with IRS and they said that there was no record of an LLC styled Front Porch Press in Alabama. Mary called our attorney who in turn called the Lee County Clerk’s office and confirmed that the paperwork had been submitted to Montgomery three days after it had been received in early December.
Mary called the Secretary of State’s office and was informed by some mid level functionary that they were running behind with the computer entry work, but we should have something by month’s end. In mid February, we checked with the IRS, still no record of the LLC in Montgomery. Another call to the Secretary of State yielded the same answer.
In early March, I decided to give the Secretary of State’s office a call and see if I could move the process along. I worked my way through the bureaucracy until I finally located the highest ranking civil servant in the office. I stopped short of the elected and appointed suits since I knew they would be clueless. The lady I finally located told me that the Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, had passed a law requiring the Secretary of State to perform a series of new functions but had not increased their funding to cover the new requirements. She went on to say that they were behind in all areas of their work and entering new LLCs and Corporations into the system was included in the delay.
When I asked just how far behind they were, she replied that they were currently processing the filings from October of 2011 and were about four months behind. When I pointed out the insanity of Alabama spending millions of dollars on luring business to the state while failing to allow businesses to be formed made no sense whatsoever, she suggested that I complain to the Governor’s office or call my legislator. She assured me that the Secretary of State was doing everything she could do to alleviate the situation.
I asked what form did “everything” take and she replied that they had 17 clerks working 24/7 on the project. I expressed the proper amount of awe and asked how long it took to enter a LLC into the system. She replied about 15 minutes. I did the math.
If 17 clerks can enter 1 item every 15 minutes then they can enter 68 per hour. If they are indeed working 24 hours per day, not only would they be the first state employee to do so, but they would be able to complete 1,632 files per day. If they were to work seven days a week, they would be able to complete 11,424 forms per week or 45,696 per month. There are 67 counties in Alabama and that would average 682 new businesses per month in each county. That would be over 500,000 new businesses per year in Alabama. All of this, and we are in a recession.
I did not question her figures, but commented that in spite of their effort, it would seem that I would have to wait another four months or so before I could expect to begin doing business. This led me to ask if there was anything I could do to expedite the process. She suggested that another $100.00 expediting fee would move me to the top of the stack. I paid up and got my approval within 24 hours. Doing business in Alabama is very similar to doing business in Somalia.