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Small Business Definitions

What makes a business a small business? What are the determining criteria? No standard definition exists. Rather, federal, state, and local governments use a variety of definitions and criteria. Even within Oregon, state and local government entities employ different definitions.

The most common criterion used to define small business is number of employees. Some definitions also include as a criterion businesses’ average annual gross receipts. Oregon statutes and administrative rules set varying size standards.

As shown in the table below, Oregon state government uses multiple definitions of small business. Its statutes and rules also contain references to other related terms, including small business concern, emerging small business, Oregon growth business, emerging growth business, microenterprise, small business enterprise, small business corporation, small employer, and even small private railcar company. Not all these terms are defined in statute or rule. Nor does every statutory or regulatory mention of small business refer to a corresponding definition.

The Office of Small Business Assistance updates this list biennially to reflect the contents of the most recent edition of the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS).

Read the most recent report about small business definitions OSBA Report: Multiple Definitions Cause Confusion for Oregon Small Businesses