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New Venture Competition

Using Census Business Builder

The Census Business Builder gives you data on existing businesses in your region – your potential competitors - and on populations in your region – your potential customers.

This data comes from several sources, including the Economic Census, conducted on all registered businesses every five years. 2017 was the most recent. Survey data, from samples of businesses and populations, is also included; as are estimates. Thus, three different types of data - census, samples, and estimates - are combined.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)

To use the Census Business Builder tool efficiently, you will need the NAICS code for your business sector. To find current codes go to:

and search by keyword. Try to think in broad terms. If we want the code for businesses selling duck eggs, those two words turn up nothing. Searching egg turns up this:

NAICS key word search

The NAICS codes are hierarchical. Looking at the NAICS structure, we find 11 Agriculture and 42 Wholesale Trade.Raising any kind of poultry for eggs is under 1123 Poultry and egg production. Egg sales other than chicken are under 424440 Poultry and Poultry product merchant wholesalers. (Note: due to cross-referencing, either code for egg sales will bring up the same data in the Census Business Builder tool.)

NAICS structure

Census Business Builder

Now, go to the Census Business Builder website: 

1. Select your Industry by entering the NAICS code in the search box. A list will pop up; select your business type.

If nothing is found using the 6-digit NAICS code, use the first 4 digits. For example, if we want to know about businesses raising chicken for eggs, only the four digit code for all poultry gets results. For reference, here is the NAICS hierarchy again:

1123 = Poultry and egg production

11231 = Chicken egg production (harmonized US-Canada-Mexico)

112310 = Chicken egg production

(We do not recommend doing a key word search.)

2. Select your location. (Hint: the bigger the region, the better the data. Start at the State level to see the type of data available, then drill down to County or City.)

3. Choose Go to Map or Create Report. You can Create a Report from the Map view, also.

Census Business Builder data selection screen

Census Business Builder Map View

In the Report, you can scroll down to see the section you want, or navigate from the left. You can also download the data set.

If there is no data, it is usually suppressed to preserve the confidentiality of the businesses reporting – because there are so few in this location. Plenty of room for you!

Census Business Builder report screen