How it's done
Business climate is the general economic environment that local businesses operate in. Reviewing and understanding local business climate provides valuable insights about the economy, costs, risks, and incentives that may impact the success of your business. This activity will guide you to better understand the business climate in Seattle and help you answer the following fundamental questions.
- WHAT is the business climate in Seattle?
- WHAT costs and assistance should I know about?
- HOW do I use this information?
What is the business climate in Seattle?
We have compiled the most important aspects of Seattle’s business climate as an interactive dashboard below. This dashboard provides valuable economic, resident, household, dwelling and development indicators that may influence the success of your business.
Average Household Size
Household Size Distribution
Dwelling Construction Period
What costs and assistance should I know about?
Whether you have a new or existing business it is critical to be aware of costs, incentives and grants that impact your business. This dashboard provides you with a snapshot of the major costs of conducting a business in Seattle and assistance available to Seattle businesses.
The Seattle business license tax is applied to the gross revenue that businesses earn. It is sometimes called the Seattle business and occupation tax (B&O tax) or gross receipts tax. The rate varies by business type and is only applied to businesses with gross revenue of $100,000 or more.
|Business Type||Tax rate|
|Service and Other Business Activities||.415%|
|Retail Sales and Retail Services||.215%|
|Manufacturing or Extracting||.215%|
|Tour Operator or Processing for Hire||.215%|
|Transporting Freight for Hire||.415%|
|Printing or Publishing||.215%|
|International Investment Management Services||.150%|
Businesses that require a regulatory endorsement
The City of Seattle regulates some business activities. These businesses require both a standard business license tax certificate and a regulatory endorsement on the license.
Review this list to see if your business requires a regulatory endorsement. Common businesses include cannabis, taxis, for-hire vehicles, and transportation network companies.
Washington State Taxes
The Washington State Department of Revenue has a guide to the state tax obligations of specific industries.
A new business such as a restaurant, shop, or office in a commercial building may require several different kinds of permits. If you're opening a home business, different rules apply. You may need one or more of the permits below to open a business.
Change of use
You need a construction permit to establish use if your new business is different than the former business that was in the space -- for example, you want to open a retail store in a space that was previously an office – even if you are not planning to remodel the space.
You may only need a construction subject-to-field-inspection permit if you will be remodeling your space but not changing its use — for example, you want to open a restaurant in a space that last held a restaurant. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections tries to issue these permits on the day you apply.
If you don’t qualify for a subject-to-field-inspection construction permit, you will need a construction addition/alteration permit to remodel a space.
Visit the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections for information on permits and costs.
The list below contains the average annual wages in King County. Visit the Washington State Employment Security Department for reports on additional industries and occupations.
|2 digit NAICS||Industry description||Average annual employment||Average annual wage|
|11||Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting||2,459||$67,416|
|48-49||Transportation and warehousing||46,240||$62,124|
|52||Finance and insurance||41,259||$107,680|
|53||Real estate and rental and leasing||25,178||$57,860|
|54||Professional and technical services||113,015||$96,540|
|55||Management of companies and enterprises||30,058||$113,573|
|56||Administrative and waste services||68,845||$54,099|
|62||Health care and social assistance||139,850||$52,905|
|71||Arts, entertainment, and recreation||*||*|
|72||Accommodation and food services||103,913||$24,485|
|81||Other services, except public administration||42,276||$42,884|
* Employment and wages not shown to avoid disclosure of data for individual employer.
Washington Business Incentives
The State of Washington offers several incentives for businesses of all sizes. Your business may qualify for multiple incentives, which come in the form of deferrals, reduced B&O rates, exemptions and credits. Learn more
|General Manufacturing||Biofuel Industry|
|Rural County/Community Empowerment Zone (CEZ) Incentives||Semiconductor Industry|
|High Unemployment County/CEZ||Aluminum Smelting Industry|
|Employer||Farming & Agriculture|
|High Technology Industry||Renewable Energy/Green Incentives|
|Aerospace Industry||Miscellaneous Incentive Programs|
|Extracting & Timber Manufacturing||Warehouse Incentive Programs|
|Food Manufacturing Industry|
Energy Efficiency and Resource Conservation
Incentives, tools and assistance to help your business conserve resources and prevent pollution. Learn how your business can reduce costs, gain a competitive edge, and contribute to a clean and healthy community.Seattle City Light Business Conservation Services
Seattle Public Utilities Green Business Program
Washington State offers a 30% cash-back in 30 days funding assistance to qualifying film productions for all money spent in Washington State, capped annually at $3.5M. Washington Filmworks also allocates $350K annually to support Washington resident filmmakers and filmmakers using new forms of production and emerging technologies through their Innovation Lab program. Learn more
To encourage the growth of the local film industry and attract out-of-region film productions, the City of Seattle offers a $25/day (or $25/14 days for student productions and productions with budgets under $10K) film permit, plus one-stop-shop permitting for filming on any public City of Seattle property, including City Parks, streets, sidewalks, and buildings. Learn more
Business Assistance and Financing
- Alliance of Angels
- Business Impact Northwest
- Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship
- Community Sourced Capital
- Divergent Ventures
- Element 8
- Founder’s Co-op
- Ignition Capital Partners
- Keirestu Forum
- Lighter Capital
- Madrona Venture Group
- MercyCorps Northwest
- Puget Sound Venture Club
- Rainier Valley Community Development Fund
- Seattle Angel Conference
- Seattle Green Business Program
- Seattle Public Library Business Assistance
- Second Ave Partners
- TiE Angels Group Seattle (TAGS)
- U.S. Small Business Administration (Seattle office)
- UW Foster School of Business Consulting and Business Development Center
- Voyager Capital
- Vulcan Capital
- Washington Access Fund
- Washington Small Business Development Center
- WRF Capital
Business and Industry Organizations
- African Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest
- Association of Washington Business
- Building Owners & Management Association
- Business District Organizations (contact list and map)
- CleanTech Alliance
- Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County
- Ethnic Business Coalition
- Greater Seattle Business Association
- Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce
- Life Science Washington
- Puget Sound Latino Chamber of Commerce
- Seattle Good Business Network
- Seattle Made
- Seattle Manufacturing Industrial Council
- Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
- Seattle Restaurant Alliance
- SLU Chamber
- Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle
- Visit Seattle
- Washington Global Health Alliance
- Washington Maritime Federation
- Washington Hospitality Association
- Washington Technology Industry Association
How do I use this information?
It is one thing to have data about the business climate, but quite another to have thought it through and know what it means, and what action you will take using it. Don’t worry, this section will help you use this information to make better business decisions.
Monitor the local business climate
On-going assessment of the business climate is an essential part of operating a competitive business. In any business climate, there are numerous factors outside your control that will impact your business, both positively and negatively. The health of the economy impacts all businesses, but small businesses usually feel the effect of economic changes faster than big businesses. Improvements in the economy typically provide a rapid increase in new opportunities for small businesses, while an economic downturn can have a significant and prolonged negative impact.
Unfortunately, you can’t influence the economy, but you can monitor the business climate indicators provided above and then take the necessary actions to minimise risks to your business. Staying up to date with the business climate can also help you identify new opportunities that your business can take advantage of.
Know your costs
All industries are unique and incur different types of costs when starting or operating (Know your industry). Understanding these costs is essential when it comes to setting prices, budgeting and planning for growth or downturns. We’ve provided some of the local costs associated with taxes, development and labour that often get overlooked by businesses. There may be other municipal and provincial costs that apply to your business so we encourage you to contact us to find out more.
Make the most of assistance
Getting good advice and adequate financing are two of the most challenging aspects of starting and operating a business. Here’s the good news – the find additional resources activity lists a large number of programs and organizations that can provide the help you need to start, grow and fund your business.
Where can I learn more about the business climate?
While we are providing you with a range of valuable information about the business climate, the fact is that there's much more available. In this section we provide you with links to other websites that will supplement our information and help to keep your finger on the pulse.
There may also be other municipal and provincial costs that apply to your business so we encourage you to contact us to find out more.
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
Washington State Department of Commerce
Washington State Office of Financial Management
Bureau of Economic Analysis – US Department of Commerce
Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED)