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Starting a Business in Fargo

Here are some questions to consider if you want to start a business in Fargo:

Do I need a zoning permit?  Businesses locating in Fargo must be located in an appropriate zoning district (typically commercial or industrial zoning).  Businesses that qualify as home occupations may be allowed in residential districts.  Contact the Planning Department at 701-241-1474 for more information.

Do I need a building permit?  If you are making modifications to the interior or exterior of a building, a building permit and/or certificate of occupancy may be required from Inspections Department

What are the rules regarding signs?  The City of Fargo has regulations on the size, design, lighting and construction of exterior business signs. Information concerning the requirements and compliance of a proposed sign can be obtained from Inspections Department at 701-241-1561.

Do I need a health department permit?  If your business operation involves the purchase, processing or sale of food items, tattooing and body art, or the application of permanent makeup, a permit may be required by Fargo Cass Public Health. You can contact that office at 701-241-1360.

What should I budget for property taxes and special assessments?  Information concerning property taxes can be obtained by contacting the Fargo Assessments Department at 701-241-1340. To look up property tax information, go to the Cass County Government web site. Infrastructure improvements are financed with special assessments—find out about the special assessments for your property.

What do I need to know about sales tax?  In North Dakota, sales tax is paid by the purchaser and collected by the retailer.  All prospective businesses should contact the Office of the State Tax Commissioner at 701-328-2770  to determine the applicability of the sales tax regulation to the proposed business activity. The City of Fargo Auditor's Office provides information about the sales tax in Fargo

What are the state forms & licenses I need?  All businesses, whether operated in the form of proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, are subject to certain legal reporting and tax payment requirements. The publication "Business Reports, Forms and Licenses required in the State of North Dakota lists hundreds of types of businesses and the associated licensing requirements.

Do I need an employer's federal ID number?  If you intend to operate as a sole proprietor and will not be hiring employees, you can use your Social Security number as your employer ID.  However, a partnership, a corporation or any business with one or more hired employees must obtain an employer's identification number from the federal government. Application may be made to the Internal Revenue Service with form SS-4, which is available at the IRS office, located at 657 2nd Ave. N., Fargo, ND 58102. You can reach the Fargo IRS office by phone at 701-232-4710.    

What about utility rates and connections?  The City of Fargo provides water, wastewater and solid waste services in the community.  Electricity, natural gas, and telecommunications services are provided by private entities.  Find out more about city utility rates for businesses by contacting the Water Department at 701-241-1301 or Wastewater Collection Rates at 701-241-1454. 

Where can I find help to start my business?  The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a resource for current and potential business owners.  It provides business assistance in the form of one-on-one consultation, group training, written materials and research assistance for existing and prospective small businesses. The Fargo office of the North Dakota SBDC is located at 1351 Page Drive South, Suite 203, Butler Building, 58103 or call 701-235-1495.

Small business owners can find free help through a local service staffed by retired and working professionals. SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Employees) members want to help small business owners start and grow their companies. SCORE operates in partnership with the Small Business Administration to provide counseling on financial options, marketing strategies, product development and more. Call 239-5677 for more information or to volunteer as a counselor. Learn more at www.score.org.

How can I open a child care business? Child care businesses can be licensed by the county but also must meet local zoning, building and fire codes. If you live in a residential neighborhood and would like to offer childcare services in your home, you are permitted to so, as long as you live in the property and serve 12 children or less. For more information on starting a child care business in the community, contact Child Care Resource and Referral at 218-299-7026.

How can I become a licensed contractor?  Any person, business, or sub-contractor making any type of improvement to real property where compensation is more than $2,000 requires a contractor’s license from the North Dakota Secretary of State.  For more information, applications and interpretations, contact the North Dakota Secretary of State's Office at 701-328-2900. 

How do I get worker's compensation insurance?  Under North Dakota insurance laws, you may be required to provide workers compensation for your employees.  Information concerning this requirement and its compliance may be obtained by contacting the North Dakota Department of Workforce Safety and Insurance.  The local office is located at 2601 12th Ave. S., Fargo, 58103. Its phone number is 701-298-4988.

The above information was prepared by the Fargo Department of Planning and Development (last revised September 2006).  Please note that changes are frequently made to state and federal laws, telephone numbers, etc.