Starting a Business

This page is intended to provide some basic information related to starting a business as it is related specifically to unincorporated Rock Island County. The information only pertains to requirements that fall within the Zoning & Building Safety Department. Our department does not license or register businesses. We put this information together because today people like to investigate information for themselves, however, always feel free to contact our staff to discuss. Here are some topics to make sure you understand before starting a business. 


This is the number one deciding factor. What is the property you are interested in operating you business zoned? Zoning controls what types of businesses are allowed on certain lots. Again, if the property is located in a City or Village, please contact them for their requirements. The easiest way to verify the zoning class and jurisdiction is by using our GIS Map viewer.  When you identify the property, a box pops up with information. Look for the category "Jurisdiction" and  "Zoning". This will tell you who ultimately who you should be speaking with about your business. And if it is this department's jurisdiction, it will have a Zoning Classification listed. 

Now that you have identified the zoning class, you can view our Zoning Districts page for some general ideas of they types of uses allowed. To dig in further and look at specifics, you can view our Downloads page and look at our Zoning Ordinance. If the property is not zoned for the use you are looking for, there are possibilities that you could petition the County Board to change the zoning classification.  First, you should look at the area and see if there are other similar uses already in the area. You can also look at the Comprehensive Land Use Plan to see if there are plans to allow businesses in that area. If the property is not currently zoned properly, and it fits the land use plan, your next step would be to petition the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to to consider changing the zoning classification. 

There are options for other types of small businesses like Home Occupations. Our ordinance defines non-impact, minor and major home occupations. Home occupations are intended to help small businesses grow, and once you outgrow your home then you can move to a property that is zoned for that type of business. Or maybe your business will always be small and work as a Home Occupation. 

Building Permits

Once you have found the properly zoned property, now you may need a structure. When you are building a new structure your will work with a design professional who will draft plans and lead your contractor in the direction for preparing the appropriate plan needs to apply for a building permit. If you find an existing building, that building was issued an occupancy permit for specific business and owner/occupant. When a new business moves in, that is considered a change in occupancy.   

A change of occupancy classification or change of occupancy of any building requires the approval of the Building Official according to section 1001.2, International Existing Building Code. In order to secure that approval, several areas of the building may need structural changes, additional fire protection, or zoning code upgrades as required by the code for the proposed occupancy. This occurs most frequently when a residence is converted to a commercial use or any other commercial use is converted to a different occupancy or the character of an existing occupancy needs to be changed by a new tenant. Subject to the approval of the Building Official, the use or occupancy of existing buildings shall be permitted to be changed and the building is allowed to be occupied for purposes in other groups without conforming to all the requirements of this code for those groups, provided the new or proposed use is less hazardous, based on life and fire risk, than the existing use.

Business Incentives

As a County, we do not have many options like municipalities do. We do participate in the Quad City Enterprise Zone. The City of Moline helps administer the the program. Their website has program details and contact information.