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Thank you for choosing the City of Lakeland to start your business! Opening a new business is a significant undertaking that takes vision, cooperation and patience. To help in this process, we have created this page to serve as a roadmap as well as a checklist. The information provided in these pages is intended to show you what you’ll need to open a business in Lakeland, from start to finish.

Please take special note:
Prior to choosing your location, contact the Planning and Zoning Department.  They will help determine the exact zoning specifications for your prospective site and will provide information on what will need to be done, if anything, to the site in to meet regulations for your specific business needs.

Planning and Zoning Office Hours
Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
228 S Massachusetts Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33801


General Business: 7 Steps to Success

Write a Business Plan

  • How to incorporate, securing start-up financing, marketing plans, pricing strategies, budgets and money management are just a few of the areas you’ll want to have figured out before committing to a business idea.
  • SCORE can help guide you through the entire process from “What is a Business Plan?” through “Crafting a Business Plan”.
  • Already have a comprehensive business plan? Great! Catapult and/or the Small Business Development Council can assist you in implementing your plan further!

Identify the Perfect Location for Your Business

  • There are many factors to consider when determining the location of your business such as proximity to customers, similar business clusters, parking needs, proper zoning and tenant build-out, to name a few.
  • Before signing a lease or purchasing a property, we strongly urge you to contact a City of Lakeland Planner at 863.834.6011 to discuss your potential location and business type.
  • Keep in mind that all businesses are unique and each potential location may have different needs based on zoning, previous use, scope of work and the improvements you are proposing.
  • Determine whether your project will trigger a Change of Use.

Choose the Appropriate Team to Complete Your Scope of Work

  • Once you’ve identified the best location for your business and consulted with the City, pick your team of professionals to complete any necessary work.
  • Time is money, and it is often better to hire the appropriate professionals from the start. Picking a qualified team can get your work done right, the first time.

Finance Your Business

  • Debt & Equity Financing
  • Small Business Grants & Development Incentives
  • First Time Small Business Loan
  • Small Business Administration Loans

Determine Your Legal Structure

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Partnership
  • Corporation

Register Your Business

It is important that you register your business for State and local taxes and get your Federal Tax ID Number:

Obtain Business Licenses & Permits

Starting a Business FAQs

  • What requires a building permit?

    A building permit is required if you plan to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the occupancy or use of a building or structure.

    Listed below are a few examples of when you will need to apply for a Permit:

    • Construction that changes the size or occupancy of the building
    • Removing/relocating/modifying interior walls
    • Installing a commercial cooking exhaust system
    • Installing a grease trap or backflow preventer
    • Changing out windows and/or doors (Florida Product Approval number needed)
    • Change of use (e.g. changing an office into a restaurant)
    • Replacement, alteration, addition to or deletion from any electrical, plumbing (including fixture relocation) or mechanical (air conditioning system, refrigeration, etc.)
    • Installing a new sign or changing the face of an existing sign
    • Installing a fence
  • What is a change of use?

    If your business differs from the previous occupant, it may trigger a change of use. 

  • Why is the zoning classification so important?

    Zoning classification is very important, as it determines such things as the specific land uses that are permitted on a property and dimensional standards such as the minimum lot size, minimum building setback and maximum building height.

  • Do I need to sign a permit?

    Yes, your business will need a sign permit for new permanent signs or for changing the face of existing signs.

  • Will I need a permit?

    A building permit is required if you are making any revisions to the structure, modifying the interior, demolishing, or expanding/changing the use.

    Building permits are necessary to ensure zoning requirements, fire, structural safety standards, and other building code requirements are met. Prior to initiating construction or demolition, it is the property owner’s or tenant’s responsibility to make sure a building permit is obtained, when required.

    You will not need a permit for painting, erecting wall paper, install tile/carpeting, replacing cabinets, replacing existing light fixtures, fans or cover plates, and minor (non structural) repairs less than $750.

  • How do I apply for a permit?

    Building permits may be applied for by the property owner, engineer, architect, contractor, or tenant. However, the permit can only be issued to a licensed contractor. The City of Lakeland has adopted the mandatory usage of ePlan & ProjectDox for plan submittal.

    More information can be found in Building Inspection.