In your quest to develop your business plan you will want to obtain information regarding industry analysis, legal and regulatory statutes, manufacturing, training and counseling, and maybe corporate financials and international information and data. This is just a few of the areas you can research through our government’s online resources. Though they are free and free is often synonymous with undervalued they are indeed not free. Your tax dollars pay for them and the information is rich and vast. These government resources are put there to help you succeed so there is no better place to start your research than with the resources you pay for. The U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, Internal Revenue Service, The State Department, FedStats, Export.gov, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission all have information that you will find helpful. I will talk a little about each one, what they do, and how you can use them.
The first place you may want to start with your investigation on industry analysis is through The Department of Commerce. The DoC is comprised of twelve separate agencies responsible for many things regarding business from weather forecasts to patent protection. Their mission statement states exactly what they do and there is no better way to sum it up, “The DoC touches the daily lives of the American people in many ways, with a wide range of responsibilities in the areas of trade, economic development, technology, entrepreneurship and business development, environmental stewardship, and statistical research and analysis.” There is much to the DoC and they also are a portal to several other government agencies and partners that you may find useful.
The U.S. Census Bureau, a derivative of the DoC, is a great resource for industry analysis and they are arguably the most important branch of the DoC for demographic information ranging from population breakdown, income, education levels, and housing to name just a few which you can find in the Peoples and Households section of their website. The Census Bureau also collects massive amounts of data on economic activity. You may need to search the industry code for the particular type of business you’re in or looking for, by searching its NAICS code. You can break information down from a national level and/or by zip code for information on total number of businesses as well as types and average sales in their business and industry section. They also have information on foreign trade and so much more. The fact of the matter is that there is so much data that the U.S. Census Bureau has accumulated it may seem daunting. It is in fact a huge database with so many useful links that I have to write three paragraphs about all the different links worth noting. You should spend some time navigating around, taking notes, and leaving yourself a trail of breadcrumbs one way or another so that you can remember just how you got from place to place.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s website is vast, as I previously stated, and there are a number of portals you should know a little about and even bookmark. Censtats is a database that includes county and zip business pattern information, international trade data, demographic and economic data for states and counties, Census Tract Street Locator, and some other databases on top of those. American FactFinder has information regarding demographic information about people that can be broken down in many ways to suit your needs. QuickFacts provides information on people, business, and geography which can be targeted on a national, state, and/or county level. If you need information on industry and manufacturing you can skim through the Current Industrial Report section. There contains vast amounts of information which may satisfy your needs for market analysis, forecasting, and decision-making.
The next noteworthy online resource at your disposal is the SBA or Small Business Administration. If you need information on federal and/or state legal and regulatory information the SBA has important and detailed information on these two important issues. The SBA also funds and supports business’s and you can find and apply for government grants, contracts, as well as sign up to receive training and counseling from SCORE. Score are a group of retired executives that volunteer their time to help business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with development of their business plans and give advice to current businesses management dilemmas and questions and other assistance. If you have never spoken with a SCORE representative you should. They have a plethora of experience and expertise on a variety of subjects and industries. The SBA’s website also offers you a place to register your business, find business licenses, and permits. Ultimately the SBA is another great government resource that is a must-add to your toolbox.
If you’re interested or need to get your hands on international data and statistics our government provides information through U.S. Census Bureau, The State Department, and Export.gov. The Census Bureau’s contains an international database (IDB) that provides rankings by population size as well as global trends and demographic data. The State Department’s website has background information that includes information on each country’s economy and a great deal more all in alphabetical order by country. You can find out information on that country’s history, people, government, relations, travel, and more. Export.gov’s slogan is helping U.S. companies succeed globally by combining and providing the resources from across the U.S. government to assist American businesses in planning their international sale’s strategy. They have in-depth data about markets and industries on a global scale.
If you need information on corporations The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Edgar Database provides information regarding corporation’s financial information as well as their operations. There is a lot more to the Edgar Database. They also have a user guide that will provide you a more detailed analysis of who they are and what all they can do for you.
The last government resource that is worth mentioning is Fedstats. FedStats is a government sponsored website that has vast quantities of data collected by over 100 different agencies. You can search by topic compiled in a nice, user-friendly A-Z format or you can search the agencies in which they receive their data from, also in an alphabetical format. If you’re interested in state-by-state statistical data you might try clicking through FedStat’s MapStats section which profiles states, counties, cities, congressional districts, and even federal judicial districts. Besides the particular places I have pointed out there is also information on international comparisons, statistics from the individual agencies, press releases, and more.