So you're interested in starting a business in Painesville, Ohio. You have great taste! Below is a quick guide for new or potential business owners and operators seeking to locate in the City of Painesville to help understand some of the regulations and procedures you may encounter. Be sure to also check out the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Business Guide to help you along each phase. We also highly recommend the Ohio Business Start Up Guide


1. Set Up an Introductory Meeting

The Painesville Economic Development office is eager to welcome and support your new venture in our community! Contact the Economic Development Office to set up an introductory meeting at 440-392-5806 or [email protected].


Do you need a business license? In almost all cases, the state of Ohio requires you to register with the Ohio Secretary of State's office. 

    1. Register your business with the Ohio Secretary of State
    2. If you have employees, register for you Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS and check with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation for coverage
    3. Register your business with the Ohio Department of Taxation
    4. Check to see what licenses and permits you need for the type of business you operate. Go to 'Checklists' and select your industry. 
    5. Write a business plan to help you succeed!


2. Determine Your Zoning Compliance 

Once you have a location in mind, you will need to check the zoning district the property is located in. See our Zoning Map to determine your district:

  • S-1 Special
  • R-1 Single Family Residential
  • R1-60 Single Family Residential
  • R-2 Multi-Family Residential
  • B-1 Business/Residential
  • B-2 General Business
  • B-3 Central Business
  • DD Downtown Development
  • M-1 Light Industrial
  • M-2 Industrial 
One of your first steps should be to contact the City's Planning Department at 440-392-5843 to discuss your proposed new use or obtain a use change approval if it is determined to be necessary. A new business needs to be evaluated for both zoning compliance and commercial building/fire code compliance (which is discussed in the next step). Zoning compliance for many new business uses in the downtown can be approved by the Planning Director, especially when the new use is similar to the former use. 
New business uses where the proposed use is dissimilar to the previous us may require approval by the Planning Commission. Each application will be evaluated on its own merit. New business that requires site modifications, such as building additions, decks, patios and off-street parking spaces, will likely require Planning Commission approval regardless of the proposed use.

3. Determine Your Building and Fire Code Compliance

Even if your new business is found to be in compliance with the City's zoning ordinance, you still need to demonstrate compliance with the applicable commercial building and fire codes. In Lake County, Ohio, the Lake County Building Department is the review and inspection authority for all structures used for non-residential purposes. Applicants can contact them at 440-350-2636. 


Because of uncertainties involved in determining building code compliance, applicants are strongly advised to retain an architect to do a walk-through inspection prior to signing or purchasing the building. The inspection allows the architect to determine what improvements may be required to bring the property into compliance with applicable building codes and to provide estimates for the cost of these improvements. 


Next, applicants should contact the Painesville City Fire Department at 440-392-5852 or Alexis Carlson at [email protected] to set up a fire safety inspection before opening for business.


4. Exterior Building Modifications and Signage

In addition to possible commercial building permits, exterior changes to commercial and industrial buildings and structures must be reviewed by the Planning Commission. Exterior changes include but are not limited to exterior painting, installation of new cladding materials, windows, doors, signage, window/door graphics, lighting fixtures, etc.


More specifically, Painesville has five Design Review Districts. Any work done in a any of the designated districts must complete a Certificate of Appropriateness and attach drawings for the Design Review Board. This step is to make sure that any building within a historic or commercial area is aligned with the welcoming historic look and charm of the downtown. 

Again, the Planning Department is here to help you navigate all requirements! Please reach out to the Director of Planner, Sarah Sitterle, at 440-392-5843 or [email protected] with any questions. 


5. Financial Incentives

Painesville City has five Community Reinvestment Areas (CRAs). The CRA program is an economic development tool offered by the City to encourage commercial development and residential renovation. The CRA provides real estate tax abatements on the increased value of real property improvements within the CRA target area. 


Learn more about Painesville City's five CRAs and the application process by going to our Tax Abatement Program page. Any property owners within the designate CRA interested in the program should contact the Economic Development office at 440-392-5806 to learn more.  You can also find financing resources, grant funding and tax credit information on our Incentives & Resources page.