StateWays - July/August 2015

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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StateWays n n July/August 2015 16 tor Shauna Helfert, who also served as chairperson of the National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association (NABCA) in 2009 - 2010. Prior to her role as administrator, Helfert ran the division's Liquor Distribution Bureau. She also worked as an au- ditor for the Corporation Tax Unit with the Department of Reve- nue, and as a human resource officer for the Federal Department of Agriculture. Helfert's unique background gives her an edge in her current role. "I feel like I grew up in the liquor control industry," she says. "I've been here, in multiple roles, since 1998. In my time here, I've gradually taken on more levels of responsibility over the years and have been able to experience all different areas of the division. Having been a working manager in the field, I have a strong understanding of various roles and processes and can keep that in mind when making large decisions that affect the entire division." Similarly, Helfert thinks that her time spent as an auditor in the Department of Revenue helped her excel in her cur- rent role. Crediting that professional experience with helping her understand how businesses operate, Helfert says she can better relate to the different types of businesses that apply for liquor licenses, providing them with better guidance and customer service. Innovative Online Platforms The division has seen steady growth in sales and revenue over the past several years. In its 2014 fiscal year, Montana generated $124 million in sales to agents and $36 million in total revenue. Along with accelerating growth, much of the division's efforts over the past several years have focused on the development of its Taxpayer Access Point (TAP), an online licensing system. Under Governor Steve Bullock's "Main Street Montana" project to foster a business-friendly climate through efficient and effec- tive government and Helfert's direction, Montana began over- hauling its online licensing system in July 2013 in an effort to provide better service and more convenience to its customers. "Our goal with a new system was to make the application process easier for customers, so they don't need to spend as much time and energy on it as they did before," Helfert explains. After evaluating its old 20-page paper liquor application, the decision was made to create a new online application that elim- inates unnecessary questions based on the information people input, vastly simplifying the sign-up process. By partnering with an outside company, the state was able to design a new system that allows people to apply for a liquor license, pay license and renewal fees, check to con- firm that their payments have been processed, and report licensee changes online. The only feature the system doesn't boast is the ability for applicants to upload their fingerprint cards, which are required in order to conduct mandatory government background checks for all licensees (fingerprint cards must be mailed in separately in order to complete an application). Users may opt to mail in other information that may be difficult to upload to the application directly, such as location blueprints. In addition to serving as a hub for licensees, stores use the same web system to view inventory information and place prod- uct orders. Store agents can also use the system to pre-order holiday products that will ship later in the year. The new system has also created efficiencies for the bureau as well. "We no longer have to manually add products to an agent's order each week when we receive the product," explains LaN- ora Stigen, the division's Liquor Distribution Bureau Chief. "The system creates a pre-order for each agent so when the product arrives and is ready to ship, it's automatically added to their list and invoiced at that time." Additional features include an automated function that ad- justs an agent's order quantities when a supplier delivers less product than was initially ordered. This results in a huge time- saver for the division, which no longer needs to log into each order that was placed and adjust quantities manually. Local governments and the public can also access the system to view and print license information without having to request re- ports from the agency. I feel like I grew up in the liquor control industry. - ADMINISTRATOR SHAUNA HELFERT [ PROFILE ]

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