OpenCounter is prominently featured on Santa Cruz city homepage

OpenCounter is prominently featured on Santa Cruz homepage

“You’d catch ’em surfin’ at Del Mar, Ventura County Line, Santa Cruz and Trestles.” The Beach Boys “Surfin’ U.S.A.” might have put Santa Cruz on the map, but it’s the commitment to small business community that keeps the city going.

Plantronics, among a few other established tech companies, has its headquarters in Santa Cruz, making it one of the biggest employers in the area – not to mention a big community supporter through our work with Second Harvest, United Way and local non-profits. But for now City officials are focused on attracting more small business owners and high tech startups to the area. Helping them cut through the bureaucratic red tape is a start.

Through a partnership with Code for America, the San Francisco-based public service nonprofit whose goal is to help governments work better for everyone through the power of the web, Santa Cruz just launched “OpenCounter.” The new online portal gives small businesses easy access to forms and fee, zoning, permitting and licensing information. Users enter their business information and the system tells them what they need. The goal is to eliminate confusion over the necessary paperwork and reduce the time it takes to get a business started in Santa Cruz.

Open CounterIf a user has questions, the portal also provides links to other government departments that can be useful, such as the City Planning Department, California Secretary of State or Central Coast Small Business Development Center (SCSBDC).

In an interview with BusinessWeek, Santa Cruz mayor Hillary Bryant said that the local economy depends on small business ventures and that OpenCounter changes the process from people feeling frustrated with the system to feeling that the City is working with them.

Currently Santa Cruz processes about 250 business permits per year. With the new OpenCounter app, don’t be surprised to hear ‘small business is up’ along with ‘surf’s up’ when you visit.