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Albemarle County is home to a diverse and flourishing business community encompassing large corporations, small, locally-owned businesses and everything in between. The strength of our start-up and small business environment is obvious by the more than 95% of our business establishments that employ fewer than 50 employees. Our strong public school system and access to institutions of higher learning like the University of Virginia and Piedmont Virginia Community College provide access to a skilled and highly competent workforce.

Starting a business can seem overwhelming, but the County is here to lend a hand. 

Significant early steps and initial considerations include:


One of the earliest decisions you will make regarding your business is how you would like to structure it legally. This decision will affect your business’ liability and taxation, in addition to its management and decision-making configuration.

Generally, businesses fall into one of five principle categories:

Sole Proprietorships
In a sole proprietorship, you and your business are considered the same for income tax reporting purposes.  You would not pay yourself a salary, since all of your profits (if any) are regarded as your “salary”.  Sole proprietors are not required to register a trade name for their business, and many consider this type of business structure to be the simplest form to begin with. However, keep in mind that as sole proprietor, you are financially and legally liable for everything related to your business.

General Partnerships
In a general partnership, two or more persons unite to launch and operate a business.  A great advantage to this type of business is the ability to join the skills and resources of all partners into one enterprise.  Prudent partnerships involve a written partnership agreement, detailing the financial, property, labor, and skill contributions of each partner, as well as each partner’s responsibilities, share of the profits and losses, and what will occur should one partner exit the partnership.  Consulting an attorney for this agreement may be beneficial.  General partnerships file a federal income tax return as a business entity, but do not pay tax.  Instead, each partner’s share of the profits and losses should be included in his or her own personal income tax return.  Each partner is personally responsible for all of the partnership’s financial and legal liabilities.

Limited Partnerships
In a limited partnership, an additional partnership is created in order to acquire supplementary funds for a general partnership.  The general partners maintain control over the management of the business, and continue to be legally responsible for all losses.  Limited partners, in exchange for investments of capital or property, receive a share of the business’ profits, and their liability is limited to the amount of their investment in the business.

Limited Liability Company (LLC) 
In a limited liability company, usually referred to as a “LLC”, owners report business profits and losses on their personal income tax returns; however, owners are generally not personally liable for business debts and claims.  This limited liability means that if a LLC is facing a lawsuit, or has amassed debt, only the assets of the business itself are at risk, not the business owner himself.  The business owner assumes no risk of losing their personal assets, such as a home or vehicle.  Many feel this type of business combines the best features of a sole proprietorship and a corporation.

In a corporation, the business has a separate legal standing from its owners, giving the business owner limited liability by protecting the owner(s) from being personally liable in the event that the business is sued.  Corporations are responsible for different taxes than the other forms of business listed.  Corporations also generally issue stocks, passing on the profits or losses of the business directly to their shareholders.  A key feature of a corporation is its permanence; unlike sole proprietorships or partnerships, it is very difficult to dissolve a corporation.

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Any new corporation, limited liability company, or limited partnership wishing to incorporate in the state of Virginia must file its articles of incorporation with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) and pay a nominal filing fee.  Any new general partnerships or sole proprietorships using an assumed or fictitious name must register with the Albemarle County Clerk of the Circuit Court.  Any business incorporated outside of Virginia wishing to do business in the Commonwealth must obtain a Certificate of Authority to Transact Business in Virginia from the SCC Clerk’s office.

Any type of new business in Virginia must register with the Virginia Department of Taxation prior to opening.   New businesses must also apply for an Employer ID Number (EIN), a federal tax identification number issued through the IRS.

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Every business operating in Albemarle County must apply for a local Albemarle County Business License, which determines the type of business to provide a basis for assessing local business taxes. Further information regarding business licenses can be obtained through the Department of Finance. New businesses are asked to estimate their gross receipts and must file a business license application within 30 days of starting their business. 

Before a business license can be issued, business owners must complete the steps listed under Registering Your Business. 

Businesses involved in the importation and sale of alcoholic beverages other than beer or wine must obtain a license from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Food establishments must obtain a Health Department permit from the Charlottesville/Albemarle Health Department. For more information, please contact the Health Department at 434-972-6288.

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Because a zoning clearance is required for all businesses, it is very important that you contact our Zoning Department prior to purchasing or leasing a property. County staff is eager to work proactively with you as you are considering the necessary steps in starting your business. Please call Albemarle County’s Zoning Department (434-296-5832) and ask for a member of the zoning staff, or e-mail Our staff will work with you to ensure your business meets zoning, architectural review, and sign ordinance requirements.  

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  • Central Virginia Small Business Development Center (CVSBDC)
    For established firms, emerging companies or aspiring entrepreneurs, the Virginia SBDC offers counseling, training and information resources directed especially at small businesses.
    2211 Hydraulic Road, Charlottesville, VA 22902 (434) 295-8198 

  • Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce
    The Chamber is an effective business advocate, promoting business and working to enhance the quality of life in the Greater Charlottesville area by encouraging member enterprises to participate actively in public policy matters.  Members of the Chamber may participate in events such as the Chamber Business Academy, Leadership seminars, and the Chamber Nonprofit/Business Council, among other services. 
    209 5th St NE, Fifth and Market Streets, Charlottesville, VA 22902 (434) 295-3141

  • Central Virginia SCORE
    This is the local chapter of the national nonprofit organization committed to the education, formation, growth, and success of small businesses in the Central Virginia area. They offer counseling sessions and workshops conducted by retired executives with years of business experience while other workshops are taught by members of the community who are experts in their field. Counseling sessions and many workshops are free, while other workshops are available for a nominal fee.

    Email, or on the web at
    East Market and Fifth Streets, Suite 200, Charlottesville, VA 22902 (434) 295-6712

  • Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (TJPED)
    The TJPED works closely with the CVSBDC and the Piedmont Workforce Network (PWN) to provide economic research, site selection assistance, training and technical assistance with information, seminars, and individual counseling, as well as workforce development solutions such as recruitment, screening, training and placement services through its combined resources and staff. 
    2211 Hydraulic Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903 (434) 979-5610

  • Virginia Department of Business Assistance
    The Virginia DBA offers information on the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Small Business Finance Authority (which offers business loans specifically for small businesses), and Business Information Services such as free Entrepreneur Express seminars and “Starting a Business” planning software. 
    1220 Bank Street, 3rd Floor South, Richmond, VA 23219 (804) 371-8200

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