AIKEN --- The deadline for Aiken businesses to renew their licenses is July 31, and how many that do could tell city officials a lot about how companies are faring in the recession.
"The licenses are a good indicator on how well the business did in 2008 since the license is based on the past tax year," said Aiken City Manager Roger LeDuc. He said officials should know how the renewals compare to the previous year by the first week of August.
He said little or no gain is expected in revenue this year from business licenses, which are based on a national formula and vary by business depending on the gross earnings on their tax return from the previous year.
Last year, the city of Aiken received about $2.2 million in such renewals, he said.
"The revenue is not specifically used for any particular item in the budget," said Mr. LeDuc, adding that about 85 to 90 percent of the renewals occur near the deadline.
IN COLUMBIA COUNTY, business license renewals occur according to the calendar year, meaning the licenses expire Dec. 31 and business owners have until the end of January to pay their renewal. Columbia County's fee is different from Aiken's in that it's a set rate based on the company's number of employees.
Linda Glasscock, with Columbia County's Code Compliance Department, said the number of business license renewals is down about 400 compared to the previous year, but new business licenses have increased enough to offset that decline.
"It's more than equaling out probably," she said.
She said the licenses not being renewed don't involve storefronts but are mostly contractors seeking work in another county.
She said her office has been getting 18 to 20 a week in new business licenses.
"But 99 percent of those are home occupations," she said. "It may be somebody that all of a sudden wants to be an artist. They've lost their job. They're trying to do something in the meantime."
Another trend she has seen is an increase in roadside vendors.
"Those are people that can be set up on any commercial zoned property with permission of the property owner and they sell vegetables or watermelons," Ms. Glasscock said.
IN RICHMOND COUNTY, Kathy Jackson, an administrative manager for the Licensing and Inspection department, said business license renewal fees are based on the company's previous year gross earnings. Their renewal also is set on a calendar year and must be paid by Jan. 31.
Ms. Jackson didn't have exact renewal numbers, but said the county hasn't seen a major drop in revenue from such fees.
Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org