Economic development professionals know that the decision to grant incentives to a new firm must be made on a foundation of reliable data and solid analysis.  Here we describe specific resources you can use to obtain intelligence on public, private, start-up and international companies that are seeking incentives from your community.

Public companies

In some ways, public companies are the easiest because there is a tremendous amount of information that they must provide by law. However, it can be a challenge to wade through all the reports and financial data to find and then interpret the data that pertain to your community’s decision. Prospectuses, annual reports, and 10-K filings (all available through the Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR website,, plus the investor relations section of corporate websites, are the best sources for information for these firms.

Private companies

Financial data is difficult to obtain and verify, so using multiple sources is critical. Business directories and local business press tend to be most valuable for these firms, but, again, it is inadvisable to rely on single sources.

Start-ups and small businesses

Economic development organizations are increasingly engaging young businesses, start-ups and even individual entrepreneurs seeking services and assistance. How do you know when you are dealing with a genuine opportunity? More fundamental than that, how can you tell if the people sitting across the table are likely to honor their commitment to your community?

Small businesses and start-ups may not have a sufficient track record to have or report even basic financial or operational data through the usual sources. Social media (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook) may be the best way to obtain insight into the culture and reputation of these companies. Researching executives, as well as the company itself, can be useful. Learning about investors or owners and sources of financing is also recommended.

Understanding the market in which these small firms operate, in order to assess the company’s business plan and likelihood of success, is also critical when making community investments. (This topic will be addressed in more detail in a future article on due diligence during deal evaluation.)

International companies

International firms provide the biggest research challenge to economic developers. Some business directories offer separate international modules, and others, such as Canada’s SEDAR, are country- or region-specific. The U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security’s “Lists to Check” also provides a few additional resources against which to check non-U.S. individuals and companies.


Do you have a question about a company that has expressed an interest in incentives?  Let us know how we can help!