List of every company in NYC?
April 15, 2014 5:06 AM   Subscribe

Is there a non-dodgy way to get a list of every single company in NYC? (I guess every legal entity?)

I'm trying to collect some basic stats for a personal research project. I would be willing to pay for a curated list or jump through bureaucratic hoops to get "raw" information from a government agency. I'm just not even sure what to ask for. Bonus points if tagged by industry.
posted by zeek321 to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My state, albeit one much smaller than New York, has a publicly-accessible directory of all registered companies on the Secretary of State's web site, which also provides scanned copies of the yearly paperwork each company submits.
posted by XMLicious at 5:13 AM on April 15, 2014

Hoovers can do this, or at least they can give you every company with a Duns number. They also give industry.
posted by kimdog at 5:14 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are databases you can buy, but be aware, things happen so quickly, that the accuracy will leave a LOT to be desired.

Also, do you want every company in NYC? Every company HQ in NYC? Every branch, franchise or kiosk in NYC? I worked for a company that sold to the finance industry and even with annual updates, about 10% of the information was out of date.

As far as industry is concerned, we use SIC Codes, so you may want to famliarize yourself with them.

I don't think you can go through a govermental industry, because most companies may be incorporated in Delaware, but located anywhere but there. They certainly wouldn't be pulling a business licence in NYC.

Hoovers would probably be the most authoritative source, but MAN is that going to be expensive.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:52 AM on April 15, 2014

Reference USA will also do this. NY Public Library has access to both Hoovers and Reference USA. Check with your local library to see if they have access to either one of these.
posted by fixedthefernback at 6:03 AM on April 15, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't think you can go through a govermental industry, because most companies may be incorporated in Delaware, but located anywhere but there. They certainly wouldn't be pulling a business licence in NYC.

FYI, every business entity "doing business" in NYS must register with the NY Secretary of State, even if incorporated elsewhere.

OP - what are the "basic stats" that you're looking for? How current must the information be? How soon do you need the information? (e.g., a FOIA request to certain agencies might yield the results you want, but could take 6+ months to receive). What do you mean by "company?" Corporation? Any business entity (incl. partnerships and LLCs)? Anyone conducting a business (including sole proprietors)?
posted by melissasaurus at 6:28 AM on April 15, 2014

Melissasaurus is correct that any business doing business in NYC must register with the NYS Secretary of State, even if the company is incorporated elsewhere (e.g., Delaware, etc.). But others' points about accuracy is also important to keep in mind: I ran a company, which I shut down earlier this year, which would still show up in the NYS Secretary of State's records (and the commercial databases referenced) because of a time lag between the time when the company is shut down and when the information is populated into various databases (both government-run and commercial).

So, the short answer to your question is: yes, there are commercial databases available that list this kind of information, but their accuracy is questionable at best.
posted by dfriedman at 7:18 AM on April 15, 2014

Here's a list on Lexis Nexis of places that have US Company Information. When I worked at a law firm, we used Hoovers, Dun & Bradstreet, and Westlaw. However, this question is difficult to answer without knowing what "basic stats" you are looking for. I agree with others that any database is going to be inaccurate due to rapid turnover.
posted by desjardins at 7:47 AM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Got any friends who are Googlers? [meaning, they work for Google?] Because (a) Google probably comes as close to anyone else to having a complete and dynamically updated database of businesses in any particularly locality, and (b) internally, they always have a lot of experimental projects going on to analyze that data and look for new ways to use it, sell it, whatever. If your project happens to connect to one of theirs, you might get an invite into the tent.

Also, the proprietary sources on the list linked by desjardins can often be accessed for free via public or collegiate libraries .
posted by beagle at 8:04 AM on April 15, 2014

Having used these databases in legal work, I'd concur they are often inaccurate and I'd add they are also unwieldy. It's kind of like saying you want to get a list of every person "in" New York City and then using the white pages to do it.

It's not an impossible task to pinpoint every legal entity that existed in New York for a given point in time, allowing some margin of error. But understand two things: (1) it's a moving target, so what's accurate today would be wrong for tomorrow, never mind next month, and that margin of error will balloon fast; and (2) and something like "every business-related legal entity in NYC" is so broad that you're going to be looking at a massive amount of data that will include a lot of disparate pieces that, in virtually any context other than this arbitrary data set you've defined, have nothing in common.

One of the challenges of research is choosing your focus. Too narrow, and you'll miss things. Too broad, and you're undertaking the impossible. (And you'll miss things.) It's hard for us to give you useful suggestions beyond, "Yeah, that's going to be hard to do" without knowing more details about what you're trying to accomplish. But you mention this is for a "personal" research project, so I wonder if maybe you have a lot of flexibility in both defining your scope and ensuring accuracy. For instance, could you reframe your question as, "What's the ballpark number of businesses operating in NYC at any given time? Bonus points for breakdown by industry."

Good luck with your project.
posted by cribcage at 9:38 AM on April 15, 2014

Non-NYC librarian here. The poster who suggested the ReferenceUSA database through your local library is correct.
posted by sirvinegar at 11:00 AM on April 15, 2014

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