• TABC: Working for the alcoholic beverage industry

  • TABC: Working for the alcoholic beverage industry

    By A. Bentley Nettles
    TABC Executive Director
     
    The alcoholic beverage industry in Texas contributes well over $40 billion to the state’s economy while placing more than $2 billion in taxes to the state treasury every year. This incredible economic engine has provided jobs, income, and opportunities unheard of when the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission was originally formed in 1935.
     
    Over the ensuing decades, TABC has played an important role in regulating this dynamic industry. Now, as we begin a new chapter in the agency’s history, TABC’s employees are working toward a common goal: Ensuring alcoholic beverage industry members have the tools they need to contribute to the state’s economy while remaining in compliance with the laws put in place by the Texas Legislature. Given the complexity of the industry, state law, and market forces, this can be a daunting challenge. However, I feel we’ve made some important inroads in the past few months.
     
    Since bringing new leadership on board last summer, TABC has worked to create new lines of communication between the agency and those we regulate. In addition to a number of small-scale meetings with industry trade groups here in Austin, we’ve taken our show on the road, travelling to areas around the state to meet with industry members and their elected state representatives. The point of these meetings is twofold: First, we want to share directly with you the steps we’re taking to increase efficiency at the agency. Secondly, and most importantly, we want to hear about your ideas, comments, and concerns. The work we do as regulators cannot be done in a vacuum. We rely upon our partners in the alcoholic beverage industry to tell us how our actions are affecting operations. In cases when our processes can be improved, we want to hear about it. If something we’ve done has helped your business succeed, we want to build upon that practice and make it even better for the more than 50,000 licensed businesses across Texas.
     
    These collaborations with industry members have already borne fruit. In the last several months, we’ve heard your input and have made changes intended to help businesses stay in compliance with state law. For example, we recently instituted a new warning system which allows our auditors to issue written warnings instead of citations for a number of non-public safety-related violations. In addition to freeing up our personnel to focus on more serious violations, this warning system allows businesses in violation to correct those deficiencies without the added strain of a court case or civil fee.
     
    Another important improvement – particularly to the malt beverage industry – is the reduced wait time for label approval applications. At the beginning of 2017, certain malt beverage manufacturers were waiting more than 40 days for TABC to approve their label applications. After listening to your feedback, we looked for ways to break through the backlog that had built up thanks to these high wait times. With the assistance of multiple TABC divisions, our Label Approval office was able to work through the backlog, reducing total wait times from 40 days to (in most cases) less than 6. This obviously has a huge impact on manufacturers’ ability to get seasonal and specialty products onto store shelves sooner. Moving forward, TABC will look for new ways to ensure wait times for all label approvals, license and permits are reduced as much as possible.
     
    These are just a few of the changes we’ve made in the last several months. You can be assured that more is coming. Above all, I want to stress that we’re committed to working with the industry, instead of simply regulating from afar. This agency exists to serve you. Your cooperation and input is vital to our success, and our ability to enforce the laws of this state helps ensure success for the industry as a whole.
     
    In cases where our policies or processes are lacking, we will improve. If there are ways we can reduce costs – both for taxpayers and industry members – we will do so. While TABC cannot change the law, we can look for ways to enforce the law in a way that is efficient and equitable for all involved.
     
    As we move ahead, we will regularly reach out to industry members for feedback. This agency exists because of you, and we’ll be relying on you to tell us and our elected leaders how we’re doing. One such opportunity for feedback is TABC’s Sunset review, which is taking place this year. Feedback from the industry is an important part of the Sunset process, and it gives you an opportunity to directly impact TABC’s operations, policies, and authority in the future. Visit the Sunset Commission’s website at https://www.sunset.texas.gov/how-sunset-works/how-participate to find out how you can participate.
     
    In closing, I’d like to thank each of you for all you do for Texas’ economy. Working together, we can continue to foster a successful and safe alcoholic beverage industry.
     
    A. Bentley Nettles was appointed TABC Executive Director in 2017 after a successful career as an attorney and brigadier general in the Texas Army National Guard. He’s a founding member and chairman of Brazos Valley Cares, a nonprofit group dedicated to serving military veterans and their families, and serves with numerous other boards and organizations in the Brazos Valley

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