Local Company Research Resources

People search for information on local companies for a variety of reasons:

  • Find potential employers
  • Prepare for job interviews
  • Find sales leads
  • Verify a company's existence for legal or financial reasons
  • Verify a company's existence for personal or historic reasons

Researching small local companies can be a bit problematic, because there is less published about them than about large companies. Nevertheless, there are a number of resources you can check for information about local businesses of any size.

Annual Reports

If the local company that you are researching is publicly traded, it must issue annual reports. Annual Reports explain where you can find such reports in paper, microfilm, or online.

Local and State Business Directories

Most business directories include brief, essential information about companies, such as date established, number of employees, estimated sales, officers, and SIC codes. The Business, Science & Technology Center carries a number of local and regional business directories:

  • Dun's Regional Business Directory
  • Harris InfoSource directories:
    • California Manufacturers Register
    • Directory of California Wholesalers & Service Companies
    • Directory of California Technology Companies
    • Northern California Business Directory & Buyer's Guide
  • Northern California High Technology Directory

Regional Trade & Industry Directories

If a company is not listed in a general regional directory, it may be in a trade directory that focuses on a particular industry or service. The following regional trade and industry directories are at the Business Science & Technology information desk:

  • California Agricultural Directory
  • Consultants and Consulting Organizations Directory
  • Directory of California Technology Companies
  • O'Dwyers Directory of Public Relations Firms

You will also find relevant sources in the U.S. Industry and Trade Collection.

Books of Lists

This annual issue lists top ranking local companies by industry or service. The library offers the Book of Lists for San Francisco, East Bay, San Jose & Silicon Valley, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Sonoma/Marin. Ask for these lists at the Business, Science & Technology information desk.

Local Newspapers

Local or regional newspapers are an excellent source of company information. You can often search current issues of these newspapers on their Web sites:

Many of these newspapers are also indexed with full text of the articles in the library's online databases.

Company & Industry Directory Databases

The Library provides databases in the Business, Science & Technolgy Center and through SFPL Online. These databases can be searched by company name, location, industry, service or product line.

  • ReferenceUSA
  • Mergent Online
  • Business and Company Resource Center (Gale)

Government Databases

California business name searches can be conducted on the California Business Portal, maintained by the California Secretary of State. Search for names using the California Business Search, which also includes the Agent for Service of Process for all California Corporations and LLPs.

San Francisco business name searches can be conducted using the City and County of San Francisco's Online Services page. Search fictitious business names in the Business Name Search database.

San Francisco Business Portal

Company Web Sites

Many companies, even small businesses, have Web sites. A company's home page is an excellent source of information about its history, current projects, products, services and officers. To find a company's Web site, enter the company name in a search engine.

Researching Older Local Companies

The San Francisco History Center files on local businesses - On the sixth floor of the Main Library, the San Francisco History Center has many special files with local business information as well as a number of monographs listing historical businesses and local business people.

Local newspapers are another good source of company information. The Magazine and Newspapers Center maintains a large collection of local newspapers and newspaper indexes and San Francisco Newspapers on Microfilm.

San Francisco City Directories and Phone books are also valuable resources. By scanning these directories year by year it is often easy to pinpoint when a company operated in a given location.

Business directories for public companies - You may be able to find basic information about older companies. See the 'Researching old stocks' section of our Stock Research page.

Business directories for private companies
[Note: None of the local sources listed below pre - date 1950]
  • Business Prospector San Francisco 381.097 C767se
    LIBRARY HAS: 1998-1999
  • California Manufacturers Register 670 C128
    LIBRARY HAS: 1948+
  • California Services Register 650.025 C128
    LIBRARY HAS: 1979-1995
  • Directory of California Wholesalers and Service Companies 650.025 C128
    LIBRARY HAS: 1996+
  • Commerce and Industry Directory
    Alameda 670 D628 Ca11
    LIBRARY HAS: 1983+
    Contra Costa 670 D628 Ca18
    LIBRARY HAS: 1992+
    San Francisco 670 In2
    LIBRARY HAS: 1978+
    San Mateo 670 D628 Ca7
    LIBRARY HAS: 1978+
    Santa Clara 670 D628 Ca10
    LIBRARY HAS: 1985+
  • Contacts Influential
    East Bay 381.097 C767e
    LIBRARY HAS: 1965-1982 BR
    Peninsula 381.097 C767p
    LIBRARY HAS: 1965-1982 BR
    San Francisco 381.097 C767
    LIBRARY HAS: 1963-1982 BR
  • Northern California Business Directory and Buying Guide 670 D628 Ca16
    LIBRARY HAS: 1992/93+
  • Northern California Business Directory 670 D628 Ca22

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