Editor’s note: Michelle Stockman is the executive director of the Fort Smith Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center. Stockman earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University-Chicago in communications and fine arts, and earned a master’s in entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University. Her thoughts on business success appear each Monday on The City Wire.
Starting a business requires more than designating a desk in your home and turning on a computer. Regardless of where you live, each business owner needs to inquire about whether their town or county requires them to hold a Business License (also known as privilege license).
There is no universal regulation in regards to obtaining a business license, so entrepreneurs need to check with their local and county governments for business license requirements. Despite local differences with licensing, there are some general guidelines to understand.
Each community and county is different in what they require for licensing their businesses (or giving them the right to conduct business). Some locations offer the business license for free, while others charge a one-time or yearly fee. Business licenses are typically renewed on an annual basis.
The business license is needed for the community in which the business is physically located. However, some communities require businesses that conduct business within city limits who are not physically located within that city also have a business license.
Business licenses are not the same as obtaining permits, occupational licenses or designating your company name, rather it is a document allowing the organization to conduct business in a given town or county.
In Fort Smith, each business needs to obtain a business license from the Planning and Zoning department (located in downtown Fort Smith). The business license is free for most businesses and renewable every 12 months. Temporary business licenses are available to those with seasonal or short term business cycles (such as selling Christmas trees during December on the street corner).
Once a business license is applied for in Fort Smith, then a chain reaction of events occur to ensure the business is operating within city code. Each business should be ready to address zoning, building and signage regulations, be inspected by the Fire Marshal and address any special taxation issues (if the business qualifies) for the city.
While a simple step in starting a business, obtaining a business license is a critical piece to starting a business. This step in starting a business is not intended to inconvenience you, rather it allows your local government information to assist them with further economic development, help serve your business and help protect citizens.