Every year, more than 6.6 million U.S. businesses pay their taxes. And every year, the Internal Revenue Service sends basic data about those businesses to the Census Bureau, where they form the foundation for County Business Patterns (CBP). This data set contains annual information on employment, payroll, and number of businesses for all U.S. counties, and for hundreds of specific industries according to their four-digit Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.
Planners use these data to find out the size of a certain industry in a certain area, says Jerry Feuer, survey statistician on the bureau's CBP staff. Private businesses might use them to send sales people to areas where there are concentrations of different kinds of industries. For example, if you have a product of interest to the manufacturers of upholstered household furniture (SIC code 2512), you might use County Business Patterns to find out that Guilford County, North Carolina, had 48 of these businesses, employing 2,551 people, in 1995.
The CBP staff add their own information to the basic IRS data. By polling a sample of businesses, they add information on sales, number of locations, and other characteristics. Every five years, CBP estimates are benchmarked to the Economic Census, which attempts to reach every U.S. business. The 1996 CBP data are due in October of this year, and data that will reflect the 1997 Economic Census are due in 1999.
Because confidentiality rules prohibit the bureau from publishing data on single businesses, not every business in the U.S. is profiled at the county level. But if you're involved in business-to-business marketing, CBP should be in your toolbox. For more information, contact the CBP staff by calling (301) 457-2580 or sending e-mail to cpb@ census.gov. To retrieve CBP data from 1988 to 1995, go to Internet address http://www.census.gov/epcd/cbp/view/cbpview.html.