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Business Resources: Private Company Research

A guide filled with research resources for the School of Business and Leadership.

Finding/Researching Private/Small Companies

Because privately owned and operated companies are not required by SEC to publicly disclose information about themselves or their market position (except by local & state regulations), researching them can be more challenging. Directories and news stories may be the main sources.

Databases to help you in locating articles in journals and newspapers on private companies are listed below.

Government Rsources

The federal government regulates and investigates various company activities. Some of this data is available to the public. Examples:

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (e.g., square footage of a plant, number of employees in the plant, types of machines used, etc., may be given from an investigation)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (e.g., plant inspection reports, filings for permits)
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (has files on some products, firms and recalls).

You can use the U.S. Government Manual to locate agency contact information (use link below).

More strategies to locate information on private companies:

  • The state's office of economic development tries to keep companies in state happy and to attract companies to the state (e.g., Dept of Community, Trade and Economic Development in Olympia). They are knowledgeable about in state companies and may be able to give info such as construction or expansion plans, major employment changes, operation or production process. Public information varies in different states. They may also be able to suggest a contact inside or outside the company.

  • Companies must file various data in the state they are registered or incorporated, and where they are headquartered and in each state they operate. Try the state's home page to find out what information they give access to such as company filings or industry information.
  • The Office of the Secretary of State is where companies usually register and provide information about their operations such as articles of incorporation, a type of annual report, corporate name changes, location of operations, etc. Information available will vary in each state. Use the link below for the Washington Secretary of State.
  • Look for local government reports. Municipal and County governments keep track of what companies do in their area. Examples are tax assessors, pollution control boards, county clerk which has records of property owned. 


Company Directories provide basic information on small or private companies.

Other Research Strategies

Other options to consider for locating information on private businesses are whether or not the comapny has any trademarks or patents. This is public information.

Has the company made an Initial Public Offering (IPO)? If so, you can find information on these companies.

Tax returns are available to the public for non-profit organizations (Form 990). Contact the regional IRS office of the company's location.

You may also contact special interest groups that relate to your industry such as industry focused Political Action Committees. 

Here are a few links to get you started in these areas:

More Online Resources

Some useful Internet links for information on private and regional companies.