Doing Business in Seattle - Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find start-up money or other financial assistance for my business?
Community Capital Development(CCD) provides small business loans through the Seattle Economic Development Fund (SEDF). CCD's Seattle Business Assistance Center provides services for small businesses at every level from start-up, to rapid expansion, to controlled growth, to sustained profitability. On-site counselors provide consultation to small businesses. Phone 206-324-4330 ext.100 or visit: http://www.seattleccd.com/financing.htm.
Washington CASH provides training and lending services for low-income women, people with disabilities, immigrants and other low-income individuals to help them start or expand their own business. Visit Washington CASH’s website at: http://www.washingtoncash.org/.
The Alliance of Angels is a regionally-focused group of individual investors and representatives of investment corporations that acts as a "matchmaker" for young technology companies and interested investors. Call 206-389-7258 or visit: http://www.allianceofangels.com/.
The Office of Economic Development's Community Development Loan Program provides low-rate loans to large projects that meet federal eligibility criteria and the program's national objectives under federal block grant guidelines. Funding may be available for construction bridge financing, low-income housing development projects and site acquisition through Section 108 Loans and Float Loans. For more information on float loans, contact Ken Takahashi at 206-684-8378 or email: email@example.com.
Licensing, Permits, and Taxes
What kind of City licenses do I need to operate my business in Seattle ?
Everyone doing business in the City of Seattle must obtain and annually renew a business license. If you're doing business at several locations in the City, you'll need a separate license for each venue. Go to: http://www.seattle.gov/licenses to get a business license application. In addition, some businesses have separate regulatory requirements. To find out if there are any additional requirements for your business, visit: http://www.seattle.gov/business-regulations.
For personalized service, call 206-684-8484 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I need a county or state business license if I'm operating a business in Seattle ?
King County does not require a general business license. However, all businesses operating in the State of Washington must obtain a Washington State Master Business License to register their business for state tax purposes. For more information or to request an application, visit: http://bls.dor.wa.gov/file.aspx. To find out about when and how to register a trade name, visit: http://bls.dor.wa.gov/tradename.aspx
How do I get a building permit or learn about zoning in my area?
To get a building permit, contact the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) - the agency charged with developing, administering and enforcing standards for land use, design, construction and housing within the city limits. First, you'll want to find out relevant policies and codes related to environmental protection, development, housing and community standards. For information about permits, visit: http://www.seattle.gov/DPD/permits/ or call 206-684-8850.
Under what circumstances will I need to get a permit to shoot a film or commercial in Seattle ?
While filming in Seattle, you may need to obtain a Master Film Permit for the use of City streets, sidewalks and public parking. To find out more, visit: http://www.seattle.gov/filmandmusic/or call 206-684-8504.
What taxes will I need to pay if I do business in Seattle ?
Anyone doing business within the Seattle city limits whose business generates income above a certain level will have to pay a city business tax. The Guide to Seattle's Business License & Taxes provides answers to many questions. However, to find out about your specific circumstances, consult the Seattle Municipal Code, your tax advisor or both. The Seattle Municipal Code can be found online at: https://www.municode.com/library/wa/seattle/codes/municipal_code. Code Section 5.40 is Admission Taxes, 5.45 is Business License taxes, 5.52 is Gambling Taxes, 5.60 is Sales and Use Taxes.
Washington State does not have a corporate tax; however, there is a state Business & Occupation Tax. In addition, new and existing manufacturers, research and development firms and certain high technology companies in Washington can benefit from several tax incentives. For information about state taxes and tax incentive programs, visit: http://dor.wa.gov/content/FindTaxesAndRates or call 1-800-647-7706.
For extensive information about state tax laws (http://dor.wa.gov/content/FindALawOrRule), business owners' rights and responsibilities (http://dor.wa.gov/docs/pubs/excisetax/filtaxreturn/trrbroc.pdf), and to access state tax forms (http://dor.wa.gov/content/GetAFormOrPublication), contact the Department of Revenue at 800-647-7706.
Doing Business with the City
How do I become a vendor with the City?
Seattle's Contracting Services Division has extensive information online about public works and consultant contracting. Visit: http://www.seattle.gov/contracting/ for information about current Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Invitations to Bid (ITBs).
How can I become certified as a Minority or Women's Business Enterprise ?
The Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises (OMWBE) promotes the participation in public contracting and procurement of businesses owned and controlled by minorities, women and others who may be socially and economically disadvantaged. You can check your eligibility to become a Minority or Women's Business Enterprise or get information about the OMWBE certification process by calling 360-753-9693 or visiting: http://www.omwbe.wa.gov/certification/index.shtml.
Where can I find information about relocating or expanding my business?
Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County provides free customized assistance to businesses expanding or relocating into King County. It also offers demographic and economic information, permit troubleshooting, financing information, help with site selection, workforce training referrals and details on local taxes and incentives. Phone 206-389-8650,Website: http://edc-seaking.org/.
Where can I find economic and demographic data?
The Seattle Office of Intergovernmental Relations (OIR) has a host of information and data on Seattle and the surrounding area available online at: http://www.seattle.gov/oir/datasheet/.
The Central Puget Sound Economic Development District(CPSEDD) offers assistance to local jurisdictions in preparing economic development plans, economic development issue reports, and analyses of individual sectors of the region's economy and in implementing projects. CPSEDD also provides economic and demographic base data. Website: http://www.cpsedd.org/.
The Seattle Public Library Business Information Service responds to inquiries related to all aspects of business including demographics, market research and financial information. It also enables library cardholders to access numerous online business and financial databases. For information, Ask a Librarian or call 206-386-4636.
The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) compiles information on market profiles, including demographics, employment, trend indicators and housing in Seattle's downtown core. Phone 206-623-0340, Website:http://www.downtownseattle.com/content/businesses/EconomicInfo.cfm.
The Puget Sound Regional Council is a regional data center that provides a variety of economic, demographic, geographic and transportation data to its member cities, counties, businesses and other interested parties. Website: http://www.psrc.org/data/index.htm .
Who can consult with me about my small business?
The Seattle Business Assistance Center at Community Capital Development (CCD) provides individualized technical and financial assistance, business development and expansion services and policy advice to many businesses that might otherwise have difficulty obtaining conventional bank financing. Phone 206-324-4330 ext.100, Website: http://www.seattleccd.com/consulting.htm.
Seattle Chapter of SCORE(Service Corps of Retired Executives ) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping small businesses by providing no-fee mentoring and business counseling and low-cost workshops. Phone 206-553-7320, Website: http://www.seattle.score.org/.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers small business loans. Its Seattle district office houses a Business Enterprise Center (BEC) with an extensive resource library and the Seattle Chapter of SCORE. The BEC offers a one-stop location where current and future small business owners can receive assistance and advice. Phone 206-553-7310, Website: http://www.sba.gov/wa/seattle/index.html.
University of Washington Business School's Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC) assists inner city small businesses grow, create and retain jobs and contribute to the region's economy. Phone 206-543-9327,Website: http://bschool.washington.edu/bedc/.
Is there a resource that can help me with product development?
The Washington Technology Center helps Washington companies overcome the technical challenges of product development by linking them with the scientific and engineering resources of the state's universities. Phone 206-685-1920,Website: http://www.watechcenter.org.
What special resources are available to biotechnology and biomedical companies in the Seattle area?
The Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association(WBBA) is a not-for-profit association of Washington state biotechnology and biomedical companies, research firms and related organizations that provides business and economic development information and marketing opportunities for members. Website: http://www.wabio.com/industry/busdev.
How can I find skilled employees for my business?
The Seattle Jobs Initiative(SJI) helps low-income people find and maintain living wage jobs. Local employers actively participate in SJI, ensuring that training programs are relevant to on-the-job requirements. Phone 206-628-6975, Website: http://www.seattlejobsinitiative.com/index.html.
The Seattle-King County Workforce Development Council(WDC) facilitates job placement and training programs that equip adults with the skills and resources they need to attain living wage jobs. The WDC also offers education, training, employment and support services for youth. Phone 206-448-0474, Website: http://www.seakingwdc.org/.
Where can I find out about hiring people who are not U.S. citizens?
The City of Seattle 's Employing Immigrants website: http://www.seattle.gov/employingimmigrants, provides quick and easy access to immigration-related employment law. Find useful and updated information on acceptable verification documents, legal hiring and firing practices and links to forms, resources and more.
Where can I find training for my employees in employment discrimination issues?
The Seattle Office for Civil Rights offers free training to businesses and the general public on anti-discrimination laws. To schedule training or for more information, contact SOCR at 206-684-4500 or visit: http://www.seattle.gov/civilrights. SOCR's website also includes "What Every Business Owner Should Know," with sections on "Responding to a Discrimination Complaint" and "Helpful Information for Small Businesses and Landlords."
Where can I get help with environmental cleanup and pollution prevention?
The Office of Economic Development supports the Environmental Extension Service in providing technical assistance to businesses on conservation, pollution prevention and cleanup of contaminated land. Phone 206-767-0432,Website: http://www.ecoss.org/forbusiness/ees.htm.
Seattle Public Utilities inspects commercial and industrial properties to improve the city's stormwater pollution prevention practices. Phone 206-615-0023, Website: http://www.seattle.gov/util/surfacewater/businessinspect.htm.
The Resource Venture, funded by Seattle Public Utilities, provides free information, assistance and referrals to help Seattle businesses improve their environmental performance. Phone 206-343-8505, Website: http://www.resourceventure.org/.
The Brownfields Program offers technical and financial assistance to help small businesses and property owners assess contamination and develop cleanup plans that enable contaminated property to be redeveloped and become productive. Phone 206-296-8476, Website: http://www.metrokc.gov/dnrp/swd/brownfields/index.asp.
How can I find out about sustainable building resources in Seattle?
The Resource Venture encourages sustainable building in the private sector by offering free technical assistance to Seattle businesses. Businesses may also qualify for financial assistance and incentive programs. Phone 206-343-8505, Website: http://www.resourceventure.org/.
Utilities, Conservation and Infrastructure
What do I need to know about garbage collection and recycling for my business?
Seattle Public Utilities collects garbage and bills customers on a combined utilities bill. Private recycling companies provide commercial recycling services to most Seattle businesses. For referrals to private providers and help with setting up commercial recycling services, contact the Resource Venture at 206-343-8505or online at: http://www.resourceventure.org/rv/issues/waste/get-started/index.php.
Small businesses that generate 96 gallons of garbage or less each week (approximately equivalent to 3 standard 32-gallon garbage cans) may qualify for free recycling through Seattle Public Utilities. For more information about Small Business Recycling, call 206-684-7665 or visit:
SPU Commercial Recycling Web page
How can I find out about electricity and energy conservation ?
Seattle City Light provides electricity to Seattle businesses through energy efficiency programs and services that have been nationally and internationally recognized for innovation and excellence. The utility offers financial incentives and technical assistance to help businesses reduce electricity use and costs. Phone 206-684-3254, Website: http://www.seattle.gov/light/conserve/business/.
As a special feature, Seattle City Light offers one-stop service to major commercial, industrial, government and wholesale customers dealing with complex or unique issues. Website: http://www.energysmartservices.com
Who provides natural gas to Seattle businesses?
Puget Sound Energy (PSE) provides all natural gas services to Seattle businesses. The utility offers incentive funding for commercial and industrial natural gas customers who install cost-effective, energy-efficient modifications to existing systems. Visit: http://www.pse.com/solutions/ForBusiness_EfficiencyPrograms.aspx for more information. Large commercial and industrial customers are eligible to purchase natural gas from third-party suppliers rather than bundled service from PSE. For detailed information about PSE's business products and services, visit: http://www.pse.com/solutions/ForBusinessLanding.aspx. For general information, please call 888-225-5773
How do I get an up-to-date report on Seattle traffic ?
You can find current information about Seattle area traffic on Washington State Department of Transportation’s website: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/Seattle or phone 206-368-4499.