Opening a Business
Sometimes, opening a business in a new City can be overwhelming. Good news! In the City of Allentown, you have professional business ambassadors to walk you through every step of the process! Contact the business development department at 610.437.7610 to initiate your guided tour. A visual roadmap is available.
Plan your business
Thinking of starting a business? Business plans are not only important for you as the business owner, but are always required for financing. Please connect with some of our partners for assistance in creating a business plan. Once you have your business concept, we can help you determine a location in Allentown!
- Lehigh University Small Business Development Center
- Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown
- The U.S. Small Business Administration
Business Incubation for early stage companies
According to the U.S. Census, more than 200,000 businesses closed during the Great Recession between 2008-2010. Statistics show that while 66 percent of all small businesses fail within their first five years, 87 percent of businesses in an incubator are still operating after the same five year period.
A business incubator is a “nurturing system” for new businesses. Incubators provide technical support, inexpensive real estate, networking opportunities with other entrepreneurs, priority access to economic development financing, and potential access to angel and investment capital.
Allentown is competitively positioned to support manufacturing, industrial and technology based entrepreneurs through the presence of multiple incubators and the virtual incubator support of the Ben Franklin Technology Center.
Bridgeworks Enterprise Center was founded in 1989 in the refurbished former Mack Trucks Plant 4A, the 64,000 square-foot Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is the only business incubator in the Lehigh Valley dedicated primarily to manufacturing and manufacturing related technology early stage companies. The Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is uniquely positioned to help urban manufacturing in the City of Allentown thrive.
Velocity is an urban campus for entrepreneurship at City Center Allentown. Velocity is designed to stimulate the establishment and growth of innovative early-stage companies committed to urban revitalization, by providing office space below market rate, advisory services and networking opportunities to founders who are passionate about building a vibrant downtown community.
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania links early-stage technology firms and established manufacturers with funding, people, technology, universities and other resources to help them prosper. Ben Franklin Technology Partners works with Allentown area businesses to provide “virtual incubator” services to early stage manufacturing and technology companies.
SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship.
Lehigh Valley Launchbox is a community facing innovation hub that acts as a small-business accelerator and a resource for early stage entrepreneurs. Hosted through Penn State Lehigh Valley, it propels business concepts into startup companies with microgrants, coworking space, legal services, education, and much more.
Open Your Business
The Business License process begins with the Zoning Office. Business owners should complete the Zoning Permit Application for approval to operate within the permitted uses of the City of Allentown Zoning Ordinance. Businesses can check different city addresses using the City Zoning Colors section of the Zoning Map available here.
After receiving Zoning approval, contact the Building Standards and Safety Office to discuss the code requirements for your project. The Building Standards and Safety Office will guide you through the development process and let you know if you need to apply for permits and submit plans. Typically, all commercial plans are required by the PA building code to be sealed by a design professional, and require a third party review prior to submission. A list of third party review agencies approved by the PA Department of Labor and Industry can be found at dli.pa.gov. For additional information, click here. Once all permits are submitted and work is completed, a final inspection must be scheduled in order to receive a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).
Certain businesses, including childcare, mobile vendors, and food facilities require additional approvals through the Environmental Health Bureau. In order to become a viable food vendor in the City of Allentown, please contact the Allentown Health Bureau at 610.437.7599. Mobile Vendor Instructions & Application is available here.
Other business types that require professional licensure must also follow the approval process for the PA Department of State Professional Board. This process varies depending on the type of license, but it should take place concurrently with the city’s approval processes. Learn more information about PA State Professional Licensing here.
Once all approvals have been received, business owners may proceed with the in-city Business License Application. Return the signed Business Application to the Department of Revenue and Audit.
Contacts to get started: