Starting a Small Business
Regulations affecting the opening of a business in the City of Des Moines

As you begin to look at locations for your business venture in the City of Des Moines contact the Office of Economic Development.  Staff members are available to answer questions on specific sites in the City of Des Moines.  Additionally, staff will be able to provide you with contact information for other city staff members who will answer questions about your planned businesses' us of a specific location.  City staff may suggest you schedule a Pre-Application meeting with City's Permit and Development Center.  In this meeting, City staff will review the site and what regulations may impact your business' use of the site and required permits.  This is very important first step in the process.  

Types of Business activities that require permits from the City of Des Moines include:

  • The Sale of Tobacco Products

  • Pawn Shops/Second Hand Goods

  • Snow Haulers

  • Transient Merchants/Vendor Carts

  • Convenience Stores

  • Game Rooms and Bowling Alleys

  • Door to Door Peddlers

  • Solid Waste Haulers

  • Cab/Limousine Drivers

  • All Home Occupations

  • All Liquor/Wine/Beer Sales

  • Salvage Dealers

  • Theaters

  • Restaurants

  • Thrift Shops


There are many regulations regarding the types of businesses that can operate in certain areas of Des Moines.  Once you locate a potential site for your business, your first call should be to the City Office.  Do not rely solely on information given to you by property owners or others.  DO NOT SIGN A LEASE OR BUY A PROPERTY UNTIL YOU HAVE MET WITH CITY OFFICIALS.  Also, there are regulations for home occupations.  City officials are able to give you accurate information about location and building requirements for your business venture.


Most construction work done to a building will require a permit.  Do not start any construction project without calling 515-283-4200.  Additionally, most outdoor signs require a permit.  Most businesses are required to obtain a sales tax permit from the State of Iowa, and businesses that involve the preparation and selling of food will require a Health Certificate form Polk County government Officials.


Financing Programs

The Office of Economic Development is committed to helping businesses grow and prosper.  A variety of business incentive programs, financial assistance, tax assistance and training programs are available to businesses that are located in Des Moines or that are interested in locating in Des Moines.   Many small, medium and large companies in Des Moines have worked with the City to make their start-up or expansion plans a reality.


Des Moines Action Loan Fund (DMALF)

The purpose of the Des Moines Action Loan Fund is to provide long-term financing for industrial and commercial expansion that creates permanent, private sector employment opportunities for new and expanding businesses.  The program is intended to be used in conjunction with loans from private lenders.


MicroLoan Program

The MicroLoan Program creates and stimulates a healthy and sustainable community by stimulating economic activity, successful business development and growth, and job creation for low- and moderate-income residents with the City of Des Moines.


Loan Injection Program (LIP)

The LIP assists projects locating in target areas to utilize the SBA 504 Loan mechanism.


Tax Abatement

Tax abatement may be used to forgive an increase in the real estate taxes for a specific period of time.  The abatement may result from a renovation, new construction, or the purchase of qualifying machinery and equipment.


Revolving Loan Fund (RLF)

Short-term financing for fixed assets, equipment, inventory or working capital may be provided with a RLF loan.


SBA 504

The SBA 504 Loan Program assists small business formation and expansion, thereby creating new jobs.


Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Program (NCR)

The Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Program purpose is to assist the revitalization of older commercial buildings in neighborhoods.  Low-interest loans are made for property and site improvements.