Ask the Business Librarian 4-17

By Elizabeth Kudwa

A: There are a number of resources that you can use to learn more about an industry. Two of the most reliable ways to obtain industry information are listed below.
1.    Trade Associations are organizations that represent members of certain industries. They can be organized on a state, regional, national or international level. An example of a trade association would be the Michigan Restaurant Association. They provide guidance for members of the foodservice industry and track legislation that will affect the foodservice industry. Associations also provide reduced fees for services or special purchasing programs for insurance or credit card processing. Many associations will charge a fee for membership which can range anywhere from a nominal $20 to a few hundred dollars.
The Capital Area District Library subscribes to three different sets of reference material that will help you track down an association for your industry.

Encyclopedia of Associations, Gale Research. Contains three volumes including an index of alphabetical listings of associations in the United States.
Encyclopedia of Associations, Regional, State, and Local Organizations, Gale Research. Contains five volumes with each volume representing a different area of the country. Volume 1 includes the Great Lakes States, volume 2 is the Northeastern states, volume 3 is the Southern and Middle Atlantic States, volume 4 is the South Central and Great Plains States and volume 5 is the Western States.

Encyclopedia of Associations, International Organizations, Gale Research. Contains three volumes including an index of alphabetical listings of international associations.
 2.    Trade Publications are another reliable source of information. Typically a trade association will publish a trade magazine for their industry. Trade publications tend to be very specialized magazines containing information specifically about one industry. Some examples include Accountant’s Magazine, Retail Merchandiser, Beverage World and Bike Magazine just to name a few.

Q: For my business plan I need some demographic information describing my market. I’m not really sure where to find this information. What would you recommend?
A: As with the industry information, there are a number of sources for demographic information. Demographics are a very common type of information to include in a business plan and help prospective business owners understand what their competition may be, a basic profile of customers, and in general the composition of the geographic area where the business will be. Census data sources are listed below.
     There are two censuses taken by the government: the regular “people” census, which is taken every 10 years and the Economic Census, which is taken every 5 years. The “people” census can be used to get a feel for customers in the geographic area where the business will reside. It will offer data for population, level of income, age, gender, race, education level and much more. Visit this census website for more details: http://www.census.gov/popest/estimates.php
     The Economic Census contains the data that will help a prospective business owner understand his/ her competition and the business environment. Visit the census website: http://www.census.gov/econ/census02 for more details. A tutorial on the website will help you understand the nature of Economic Census data. Look for “Guide to the Economic Census”. Primarily, data from the Economic Census will help you understand how many other similar establishments exist in your area and how much they generate in sales.

Q: I’m not sure if I need a license before I start my business. Where can I find information about this?
A: The best place to go for information about obtaining a business license is the State of Michigan’s website. You can visit them at http://www.michigan.gov. Once you are there, click on the “Business and Economic Growth” button that is in the left hand side menu. This will open a new page and in the same left hand side menu you will now see a link for “Licensing and Permits”. Next, open the “State License Lookup” so you can do a search for licenses.
    Once in the “State License Lookup” section, you’ll see two options. You can search using a search box by typing in the type of license in which you’re interested. Or you can view all licenses alphabetically. If you don’t obtain any results in your search, I recommend browsing the alphabetical listing just to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
   If you have any additional questions or concerns, the phone number for the Department of Labor and Economic Growth is (517) 373-1820 and the phone number for the Licensing Division is (517) 241-9288.

Elizabeth (Liz)  Kudwa is the Business Reference Librarian at the Capital Area District Library located at 401 S. Capitol Avenue, Lansing, MI  48933.  Contact her at 517-334-1522 by e-mail at