XML forms help bring jobs to Utah

'It has cut our time in negotiating contracts from months to minutes.'

'Utah program specialist Tamee Roberts

Utah Incentive Funds, a division of the state's Business and Economic Development Department, last month began accepting business subsidy applications authenticated by digital certificates.

Five new companies have already received subsidies using their digital certificates. About 20 companies so far have certificates.

'State governments have been hit hard by the recession,' said Tamee Roberts, a program specialist at Utah Incentive Funds. 'The idea is to cut costs for everyone.'

One of the new businesses promised to bring 1,350 jobs to the state. That kind of job growth is what motivated the state to upgrade its application process, Roberts said.

Utah is using the eTransaction architecture from NxLight Inc. of Orem, Utah, and digital certificates from Identrus LLC of New York.

The certificates are also sold under the General Services Administration's Access Certificates for Electronic Services contract held by Digital Signature Trust Inc. of Salt Lake City, which was acquired by Identrus at the end of March.

Roberts said the division paid $45,000 for eTransaction and about $5,000 for Web site hosting. The setup 'has cut our time in negotiating contracts from months to minutes,' she said. 'Our volume has nearly tripled in the last year.'

Paper processes were holding up an infusion of new business into the state, she said. The attorney general's office could not keep up with inquiries, and subsidy applications were not processed in a timely manner, she said. 'Those applications hit a bottleneck.'

Now a company interested in moving to Utah goes to www.nxlight.net/dced, obtains a user name and pass code, and fills in online fields about its business and available jobs.
Roberts double-checks the information in phone conversations with the company. Then she routes the form to the attorney general's office for approval.

NxLight built the template using Extensible Markup Language. The state could have designed a template in a simple word processor, but 'you and I both know anyone can make any kind of change to that,' Roberts said.

Paper discouraged

Large companies sometimes prefer to process their applications on paper. Roberts doesn't expect to allow many such exceptions, however.

'We had to pin down our policy,' she said.

The security hurdles are minimal. A company can receive a certificate after giving an employer identification number, Social Security number or driver's license number.

Roberts said she calls each business and makes any necessary changes to its file while on the phone. 'Those two aspects have really come together'policy-making and document-making online,' Roberts said.

Utah's internal users see an audit trail of where various applications stand and can pull data to populate fields in the template.

XML automation 'should spread like wildfire,' Roberts said. 'I assume that within a couple of years, we'll see more applications being filled out this way.'

NxLight is indefinitely storing Utah's online documents. A document written in XML takes up less space than Word's .doc format or Adobe Portable Document Format, NxLight president Douglas Clark said.

Utah employees have browser access to all the documents, including those in archives. 'But we're not always tethered to the Internet,' Clark said. 'We have a viewer, kind of like Adobe Acrobat Reader.'

The U.S. Education Department is considering the same type of process for its e-government project, Online Access for Loans, NxLight officials said. They said Education met with the company to discuss automating the paper-based student loan program that handles 10 million applications each year.

'This is what is really going to drive simplification for us and hopefully for the people that run the programs,' Education's deputy secretary William D. Hansen said last month at a Utah Information Technology Association conference.

NxLight officials said they expect to have a pilot running in Utah as early as July for loan guarantors, Utah's Education Department, lenders, universities and students.

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