Welcome to Business Connect, your one-stop shop for doing business in the City of Aiken. This program is designed to provide personal assistance to you, whether you’re Starting, Growing, or Expanding a Business inside our City Limits. Our goal is to keep it simple as we know this is only one aspect of your business planning. To schedule an appointment please call, fax or email us and we will arrange a meeting to get the process started. We look forward to having you be a part of our thriving business community!
We are available Monday through Friday, 8:10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. , to meet with you at our location at 214 Park Avenue SW, Room 202.
Business Vitality Manager
Hi, I’m John McMichael, Business Vitality Manager and we want to make this experience as simple as possible. Our staff knows you have a lot on your mind and getting your location up and running is only part of the process. We’re here to determine whether your proposed business site and building are feasible for its intended use. Even if you plan on working out of your house we want to set you up for success. We’ll conduct feasibility surveys so you can understand any unique building, fire, or zoning code requirements before you lease or purchase a property. Once you’ve settled on a final location we’ll serve as your one-stop resource for permits, final inspection approvals, utility services, and business licensing.
Why is Business Connect your One-Stop Resource?
If you’re starting or expanding a business, and you think you’ve found a suitable location, call us and we’ll show you how to use Business Connect as your One-Stop resource. Managed by the Community Affairs and Tourism Division in association with the Planning Department and all other city departments, our staff is here to assist you with the process of opening, relocating, or expanding your physical business within our City limits. Our staff is here to support the entire process, start to finish including:
- Checking the proposed location for zoning code, building code, and fire code requirements,
- Coordinating inspections and plan reviews, and
- Issuing your business license, including creating the utility account.
Our goal is to eliminate any surprises, or costly mistakes, before they’re made. We want to let you know up front everything you need to do to your physical location to get an approved Certificate of Occupancy or Zoning and Building Compliance Permit before you make any final decisions about your business planning.
We start by performing a “feasibility” inspection and check your location for safety issues so we can determine if any major modifications will be required to be compliant with City and/or federal ordinances. For example, you might need to add a handicap accessible restroom for ADA compliance. Working with Business Connect will allow you to determine if your desired location is right for your needs. And, what it will take to retrofit the space to be compliant as well.
Our “The Business of Aiken is Business ” information outlines all the various agencies involved in the process of opening or expanding a business including:
- Agreement Utility Service Agreement
- Zoning and Building Compliance Application
- Zoning and Building Compliance Application Frequently Asked Questions
- Business License Application
- Other Forms and Information
You have a business plan and a location in mind, what’s next?
Business Connect is also here to provide guidance on getting you ready to go through the process of starting or expanding a business. With our goal of being a one-stop resource we can also help:
- Prepare you for the Initial Business Connect Appointment
- Schedule the initial Meeting with the right Business Connect Staff
- Arrange for the feasibility study and other inspections for your proposed location
- Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, Business License and Utility Account
- Share other things to Take Care of and Related Links
Preparing for the Initial Appointment
Step one is to complete the Application to Start or Change a Business. It’s important to answer as many questions as possible. If you’re working with a realtor or leasing agent on securing a potential location they should be able to provide most of the information as it relates to the physical space required for this initial meeting. And, with you as the business expert you’ll be able to provide the rest of the details as they relate to the operation of your business.
Together, we will review the application and identify any additional information that you will need to provide. Having as much information as possible about your type of business, as well as the building and site you are considering, helps us make sure the instructions and guidance we give you is accurate and applicable to your particular business. Being as thorough as possible upfront will avoid any delays and additional costs.
Information to bring to your initial appointment:
- Type of business being considered.
- Address of location.
- Floor plan of the space, if available. Any proposed architectural drawings.
- Square footage of the desired space, and specs on the entire building.
- Number of bathrooms in the space. Ability to answer specific questions such as, “Are they handicap accessible?”
- Number of parking spaces available for your location. How many are handicap accessible?
The Initial Meeting with your Business Connect Team
During our initial meeting we will discuss various aspects of your business focusing on your desired location and what requirements, if any, are necessary to get zoning approval and your CO. Our goal is to make sure there are no major building or financial issues that might prevent you from moving forward. Click on the Zoning Map Search link below to make sure that your property is in a zoning district that allows for the type of business in which you are interested. The Zoning Ordinance Search outlines the types of businesses that are allowed in each zoning district.
There are two types of business classifications (see below), 1) low-impact, and 2) high-impact. The type of impact will determine your inspection schedule.
A low-impact business is:
- Opening in an existing space,
- Used by a similar business in the past, and
- No permit-required construction is proposed.
High-impact businesses are those that involve additional code requirements and include:
- Assembly uses such as churches, private clubs, etc.,
- Any vehicle repair facility,
- Beauty salon, barber shop or spa,
- Any business with a paint booth,
- Day care or child care facility,
- Restaurants, food service or commercial kitchens, and
- Other hazardous classification occupancies.
An inspection can be conducted at your request, or it may be required for high-impact businesses. During this inspection we check your location for safety issues and determine if any major upgrades will be required. For example, adding a handicap accessible restroom. This allows you to determine all costs up front and decide if your desired location is “feasible” for you.
If any work is proposed that requires construction plans, you can prepare them and submit them for review. Visit our Commercial Building Permits page for more information about plans and permits. Some changes to certain buildings and business types are required to be drawn by a SC licensed architect. Our office can help you determine if this is required. Once the plans are approved, permits can be obtained and the work can be completed. Inspections will be done as necessary throughout the construction process.
Certificate of Occupancy, Business License and Utility Account
When all work is complete and the space is ready to open, our team will perform a final inspection. A Certificate of Occupancy (or C.O.) is issued and the Zoning and Building Compliance Form you completed earlier is approved. You can set up your utility account and obtain your business license right in our office. You will need to complete a Business License Application, sign a Utility Service Agreement and pay any required deposits.