Author Archives: James Hackett

Cruzio Receives State Grant for Equal Access Summits to the Sea Project

On February 15th, the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved Resolution T-17810, giving the green light to Cruzio’s Equal Access Summits to the Sea (EAS2C) grant proposal.

EAS2C is a game-changer, bringing high-speed connectivity to large areas of San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and Monterey Counties where internet service is inadequate. Many folks in these rural and remote regions have been left behind, dealing with outdated copper networks and limited internet options that are both scarce and pricey. Cruzio came up with an economical plan to address the problem, and the State of California has approved and will fund some of the work.

Using state-of-the-art fixed wireless hardware, Cruzio will rapidly deploy gigabit broadband to thousands of locations in this under-served region. And EAS2C’s middle-mile infrastructure is “open access,” meaning other ISPs can hop on board to offer speedier, more reliable services to residents across the Central Coast. The network will lighten the load on smaller providers, paving the way for fairer prices and better service for all.

And it’s not just about binge-watching Netflix and making Zoom calls. In rural areas like these, reliable internet is a lifeline, especially when it comes to public safety. That’s why Cruzio has partnered with the AlertWildfire consortium to install internet-connected cameras along the network, keeping an eye out for wildfires and helping keep communities safe.

EAS2C project area

EAS2C project area

For the last few years, Cruzio has worked with local school districts, municipalities, and non-profit partners to provide subsidized internet to low-income families through our Equal Access initiative. The populations are diverse, including everyone from recent immigrants in crowded farmworker communities to families who’ve lived in isolated mountain homes for many generations.

Cruzio’s mission is to provide every household with the same level of service that we make available to our more urban customers. Recent advances in fixed wireless technology, matched with Cruzio’s familiarity with the area, are making that mission a reality.

“Our region has a problem.” James Hackett, COO at Cruzio, explained. “We’ve got rural communities, farmers, low-income communities out here. Then just a hop away we’ve got Silicon Valley, high-tech and bustling. It’s quite the gap. But getting reliable internet out here? Not so easy with our geography. And that digital divide? It’s real, making life harder for folks. With the Summits to the Sea project we’re working to level the playing field and give everyone a fair shot.”

This project represents a generational leap forward in broadband access, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of concerned community groups and elected officials. Big thanks to Representatives Jimmy Panetta and Anna Eshoo, State Senator John Laird, State Assemblyman Robert Rivas, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, Monterey County Supervisors Chris Lopez, Mary Adams, and Luis Alejo, as well as the Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Santa Clara Offices of Education, the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership, and many others. We especially want to recognize the incredible work being done by Cruzio’s growing team of all-local employees, many of whom have been with us for decades. It’s been a team effort, and fast, affordable internet is going to make a world of difference for folks across the region.

An Update on Equal Access Santa Cruz

girl on laptop
Jason Borgen, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the Santa Cruz Office of Education, faced a heartbreaking challenge in April 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced students to switch to homeschooling, and many of them lacked adequate home internet connectivity. Students couldn’t do their schoolwork.

“Our primary objective is to provide unwavering support to all students and families, ensuring they have the necessary resources and tools to achieve success, particularly those in our community who are underserved,” Jason emphasized.

Having partnered with Cruzio on many projects over the years, Jason’s initial action was to reach out to us. Together, we embarked on a mission to install affordable internet connections for these students. When it became apparent that the problem was even more widespread than initially thought, Susan True of the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County stepped in, playing a pivotal role in establishing a charitable fund, thus giving birth to Equal Access Santa Cruz (EASC).

EASC allows local community members to support less fortunate neighbors with fast, reliable internet — a service that’s become vital for so many reasons. Cruzio members can even add a few dollars to their monthly bill for EASC. In all the fund has raised over $1,000,000, all of which is put to work building new internet connections to homes in places where construction couldn’t be justified by market economics.

Since its inception, EASC has achieved remarkable success. Some of our achievements include:

  • Establishing over 35 broadband distribution hubs (Points of Presence or PoPs), each capable of serving up to 200 households.
  • Executing various special projects to assist community members in need, such as Buena Vista migrant housing, Pajaro Valley Shelter Services, Farm Discovery Center, and Housing Matters’ Casa Azul.
  • Connecting over 1,200 students and families to new internet access.
  • Creating infrastructure that has the potential to serve an additional 5,000+ individuals.
  • Enhancing broadband availability in over 60% of the Watsonville/Pajaro area.
  • Cultivating new partnerships with several school districts, Housing Matters, Housing Authority of Santa Cruz, and other like-minded organizations.

The partnership with Equal Access has been one of the most gratifying things the Cruzio team have ever undertaken. It embodies our core values and mission as well as the Santa Cruz community’s dedication to making a positive impact.

A student at Farm Discovery Center near Watsonville enjoys Equal Access high-speed internet

We extended internet to Farm Discovery and other places where students do homework.

Jason encapsulates our collective mission when he says, “we focus on equity and are doing everything we can to remove the digital divide from Santa Cruz County. We are thankful for the work Cruzio is doing and has done to make this a reality. With Santa Cruz COE’s and Cruzio’s shared vision towards this work we can truly make a difference for all of Santa Cruz county!”

If you want to help support our mission and help make sure no one in Santa Cruz County is unconnected, please donate to the Equal Access fund.

Housing Matters’ Casa Azul: Equal Access Santa Cruz’s Latest Success Story

801 River St/ Casa Azul

Casa Azul Grand Opening

People who’ve fallen on hard times can use the internet to connect to health and other services, to look for jobs and permanent housing, to stay in touch with family, and, hopefully, to help find their way back to stability. Through our 34-year history, Cruzio has provided internet connections to organizations that help the members of our community who are most in need, and as we build new infrastructure we extend it to needy folks when we can.

Most recently, Cruzio was proud to link up new supportive housing on River Street, near the intersection of Highways 1 and 9.

Leveraging state funds from the Home Key program as well as resources from local donors, Housing Matters renovated a long-empty VIctorian house and is using it to provide housing to people who suffer from one or more disabilities and who’ve experienced homelessness for a year or more. The house is close to Housing Matters facilities, creating a much-needed expansion of the campus.

The Casa Azul project consists of two one-bedroom apartments and five studio units, making it a stepping stone towards Housing Matters’ upcoming project, the Harvey West Studios. The latter is a 120-unit permanent supportive housing initiative aimed at providing long-term support to individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. As Casa Azul opens its doors to new residents, there’s a real sense of excitement and progress. Housing Matters and Cruzio intend to replicate the free internet deployment at the new project.

The provision of free internet access at Casa Azul goes beyond merely providing a connection; it represents a gateway to empowerment and opportunity for residents. With reliable and high-speed internet, individuals experiencing chronic homelessness can access crucial online resources, educational opportunities, job training, and employment opportunities.


Cruzio tech Evan Powers admires the new Casa Azul project at 801 River St.

Moreover, telehealth services will be readily available, ensuring access to remote medical and mental healthcare, fostering improved overall well-being. The ability to stay connected with family, friends, and support networks through online platforms enhances social connectivity and helps build a stronger sense of community within Casa Azul.

The partnership demonstrates a truly impactful approach to tackling the digital divide. As residents move into Casa Azul, they are welcomed not only into safe and stable housing but also into a digitally connected world of opportunities and possibilities.

We feel proud to be able to contribute. Equal Access is a partnership of Cruzio, local community institutions, and local philanthropists. It’s supported by many of our customers (thank you!) and other local donors who know how important quality internet is to every person. It’s part of treating people with dignity.

Every time we can contribute to the well-being of our community, we are going to try. Each piece may be small, and sometimes we feel pretty overwhelmed by the difficulty of curing our local problems. But the only way to tackle big problems is to take the first steps. This housing meets a deep and obvious need. We hope it will prove helpful.

You can help! Make a donation to the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County Equal Access fund. Or just add a small amount to your monthly Cruzio bill, and we will send it to the fund. Equal Access helps seniors and disabled people access health and social services, children get a better shot at online schoolwork, people looking for jobs find opportunities, and much more. Because we add our own contribution, Cruzio can make a small amount of money go a long way.

Cruzio announces start of Santa Cruz Fiber project

Cruzio announces start of Santa Cruz Fiber project, Santa Cruz CA

July 19th, 2016 — Cruzio Internet announced today that they will begin construction of the Santa Cruz Fiber internet network immediately. The gigabit speed, fiberoptic network is being built in collaboration with the City of Santa Cruz and has the goal of providing affordable, next-generation broadband to every home and business in the city.

“We could not be more excited to finally be breaking ground,” declared Cruzio’s President and co-founder Peggy Dolgenos. “True, cutting-edge, locally-operated internet is always a goal, and now that goal is closer than ever.”

Cruzio Internet and the City of Santa Cruz have been developing plans to build out a high-speed network for the past two years with various financing options. Spurring the project forward, and demonstrating the construction methods and business model involved, Cruzio is taking the bold step of initiating this first “neighborhood” — covering around 1,000 homes in the downtown area — independently.

“The best way to demonstrate how successful this network can be is to just start building it,” said Cruzio’s Chief Technology Officer and co-founder, Chris Neklason. “The City Council and staff have been fantastically encouraging and we decided the time was right to take that encouragement and put it into action.”

Starting this fall, Cruzio engineers will program and install the hardware necessary to “light up” the gigabit speeds. At the same time, construction crews will move through the neighborhood installing the backbone fiber path, and connections to the homes of anyone who has signed up.

“We’re thrilled about the low price we can offer City residents,” continued Dolgenos. “We are aiming for $50 per month for gigabit internet — one of the lowest prices in the whole country. This is not an elite service, we want to make it affordable to as many people as possible.”

One gigabit per second, or 1000 megabits per second, is 10-100 times faster than the next best service available in the City and is the same level of service available in Google Fiber markets.

“Cruzio has already proven they lead the way with a gigabit-class wireless network,” said J. Guevara, City of Santa Cruz Economic Development Manager. “Now we get to see the first step for Santa Cruz Fiber by providing fast and affordable internet in Downtown Santa Cruz at an unbeatable price.” The City of Santa Cruz and Cruzio continue to explore how to expand the network throughout the city.

To learn more about Gigabit Broadband and to get your building connected, visit To learn more about Santa Cruz Fiber, visit

About Cruzio

Cruzio, founded, run, and wholly owned by residents of Santa Cruz, is one of the largest independent internet service providers in California and a registered Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC) with a significant market share (about 9,000 households and businesses) in Santa Cruz County. Established in 1989, Cruzio connects businesses and residences around Santa Cruz County and parts of the Bay Area with multi-gigabit fiber internet, business-grade wireless internet, and other internet and web services. Our beautiful headquarters in downtown Santa Cruz serve as an Internet Exchange Point and data center, with colocation, flexible office space and coworking for startups and small businesses.


Happy Friday!

Happy Friday to all you Cruzio folks out there! Here’s some fun events happening around your neighborhood this weekend!

1. First Friday Art Tour

First Friday

August 7, 2015

Happening every first Friday of the month, First Friday is an independent event designed to support a strong cultural environment through the promotion of Artists. Managed in conjunction with the participating Art venues, First Friday is a free event for enthusiastic Art Goers and an opportunity for our many talented Artists to exhibit and promote their work.

For more info. visit:


2. California Beer Festival Santa Cruz


August 7, 2015 – August 9, 2015

Happening at the Aptos Park, Saturday is Craft Beer Heaven with over 85 craft beers on tap, food, bocce ball and live entertainment. Sunday bring the family, blankets and chairs for the hamburger and hops music festival.

Best hamburgers, gourmet & fusion sliders, craft beer and an amazing live entertainment lineup.

Kids 12 and under are FREE. There is no beer sampling on Sunday but beer and food available for purchase.

For tickets and more info. visit:


3. Church Street FairChurch

August 8, 2015 – August 9, 2015  11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Music and art all day for two days, Saturday and Sunday August 8th and 9th. There will be food, an array of music,  a crafts tent for kids, and lots of artwork!

For more info. visit:


4. Santa Cruz Shakespeare 2015 Summer Festival


June 30, 2015 – August 30, 2015

Santa Cruz Shakespeare brings to life professional, thought-provoking & passionate shakespearean theater. This season features: Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, The Liar and Fringe Show: The Rover (This weekend is the opening for The Liar). Performances take place in the Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen in the Santa Cruz redwoods, one of the most beautiful theater venues in the nation.

For tickets and more info. visit:


5. Cabrillo Music Festival 


August 2, 2015 – August 16, 2015

Plan your Festival Experience with the Cabrillo Music Festival, including your choice of concerts, talks, meetups and more! During the first two weeks of August each year, audiences are joined by both preeminent and emerging composers, an orchestra of dedicated professional musicians and renowned guest artists from across the globe to give voice to works which are rarely more than a year or two old.

For tickets and more info. visit:

Cruzio Internet’s Certified Building Program Kicks into Full Drive.

The beginning of the summer has seen Cruzio Internet go into full drive delivering high speed Internet distribution in Santa Cruz County. In the last year, Cruzio has introduced a new enterprise-level, 100 Mbps broadband service to multiple locations in Santa Cruz and plans to expand even further. The Cruzio Certified Building Program is designed to provide building owners and their tenants access to the fastest broadband services available.

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The Santa Cruz Fiber Project

A Bold Vision for a 21st Century Santa Cruz:
With encouragement from our community, Cruzio Internet and the City of Santa Cruz have formed a public-private partnership to develop a city-wide Gigabit fiber to the premise network.

Under the terms of the partnership, the City will own the network, and Cruzio will act as the developer during engineering and construction and as the operator when the network is complete. Financing for the development of the network will be through City-backed municipal revenue bonds, repaid through the revenue from the sale of network services (and not by the taxpayers). The project will be financially self-sustaining and 100% of the profit generated will stay in the City of Santa Cruz.

The goal of the network is to provide affordable gigabit and multigigabit services to as many of the 22,000 residences and business in the City of Santa Cruz as possible. A locally-owned, next-generation broadband network operated openly and independently and built for Santa Cruz, it is uniquely tailored to fit the diverse needs of the Santa Cruz community.


How did this plan come about?

For most of our 25-year history, Cruzio has leased copper phone lines to carry Internet to homes and businesses, paying millions of dollars per year to non-local companies for increasingly inadequate infrastructure.

When a single fiber cut in 2009 left most of Santa Cruz without telecommunications for a full working day, Cruzio immediately began to build an independent, local, fiber/wireless network.

But growth has been piecemeal, and Cruzio was dissatisfied by the limitations of a standard business plan. So we approached the City of Santa Cruz with the idea of serving the whole city, not just the easiest areas. Building big would provide economies of scale, making it possible to reach places otherwise unaffordable. For example, extending fiber to the Boardwalk area might make it economical to reach Beach Flats. But Cruzio could not do this alone.

So Cruzio went to the City.

At about the same time, the City of Santa Cruz was starting to move forward with recommendations from a 2011 technology task force to develop a Broadband Master Plan (presented to City Council on March 10, 2015).

santa-cruz-city-councilAs construction of our downtown and Westside fiber projects progressed in early 2015, so too did our conversations evolve into an exploration of how to build a gigabit fiber optic network to every parcel in the City.

We worked with the City on a rough design and financial model based on comparable networks in other US cities to get an idea of ballpark costs and see if it made sense to explore further. The City then engaged an Internet network engineering firm to do a high level design for a fiber optic network, and to report on the financial feasibility of such a network.

Over the summer, Cruzio will be surveying the residents and businesses of the City of Santa Cruz, and if the results are favorable, the engineering and construction will begin!

What’s So Big About a Gig?
A gigabit capable digital network means you can move billions of bits of data per second from one place to another. Bits are the ones and zeros, the traffic, being transported over a digital network. Imagine a highway billions of lanes wide.

Most existing telephone or cable company data networks provide megabit service, which measures in the millions of bits per second.

speed-comparison-fiber-dslSo a gigabit network is 100X or more faster than the Internet service you are connected to today. That’s important, even more so as phone, entertainment and news content are migrating to the Net. Not just increased use, but higher quality requires bandwidth.

But Gigabit Internet isn’t just about smoother streaming of movies and TV. This new broadband infrastructure will fuel economic growth, fill empty real estate and take cars off the road by enabling home businesses and telecommuting. Schools, Libraries and Medical facilities will take advantage of the infinitely faster speeds to connect students to teachers, connect communities and transfer medical CAT and MRI scans and genomic data.

There is also the advent of the so-called Internet of Things. While it is true that thermostats and lamps and refrigerators and washers and dryers will be transmitting much smaller packets of data, they will be doing it frequently, and there will be a vast number of “things” connected to this Internet of Things.

“Big Data” and “More Data” will require ever-faster networks.

Why Fiber?
fiber-strandIn many ways, a fiber optic network is “future proof”.

The physical fiber optic cable and conduit are robust, last through decades of use, and are relatively low cost to service and maintain.

Fiber-optic is also unique in that it can effectively carry unlimited amounts of data, as a physical communications channel. It far surpasses the capabilities supported by current local providers. It can scale: the same fiber can carry 1 gigabit or 10 gigabits or 100 gigabits, and so on, to every home or office.

With a gigabit fiber network, the City of Santa Cruz is future-proofing the infrastructure that will support the economy and essential services for many decades.

Why use a Private-Public Partnership?
While the network will generate revenue above costs, unlike a wholly-commercial enterprise a public-private partnership will emphasize universal coverage rather than focusing on commercial profit centers.

Cruzio’s interests align closely with those of the City:

The City itself needs fast, low-cost Internet among its many facilities.

High Speed Internet is good for the economy — both the City and Cruzio are deeply dependent on the local economy.

It seems fair and right to get Internet to all areas of the City, rather than just to elite neighborhoods. Cruzio’s owners and staff are committed to this fairness, as are City leaders.

Fiber optic networks are expensive to build, on the same level as municipal water or sewer systems. Using bonds, well-managed municipalities like the City of Santa Cruz are better able to get very good financing large scale utility projects which run into the tens of millions of dollars.

With the encouragement of City leaders, a high-tech ecosystem has developed with many small startups building businesses locally. The Office of Economic Development recognizes that these, as well as more traditional businesses, need good infrastructure to prosper.

Yet despite this recognition, a highly educated population and proximity to Silicon Valley, Internet in Santa Cruz lags behind most California cities. This makes it a good target for an infrastructure upgrade.
The City has an excellent professional staff overseeing public interest in many relevant areas: Public Works, Finance, Information Technology and Economic Development, to name a few. But the City doesn’t have expertise in initiating, provisioning and supporting service for thousands of users on a digital network, Cruzio does.

As the largest independent ISP in Santa Cruz, with a 25-year history of great service and support, Cruzio is uniquely positioned to operate this network.

Cruzio’s existing backhaul fiber connection saves many months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in setup and monthly costs. The backhaul can provide low cost bandwidth to feed the entire network and is expandable as needed. Our billing and customer service software is in place, tested, scalable and transferable to the new project. Lease payments for customer connections totaling a million dollars a year, currently going out of our area, could be shifted to pay the City.

Finally, Cruzio already has thousands of Internet users in the City of Santa Cruz who can be moved onto the new city-wide fiber network, providing immediate revenue to service the bond payments and top-notch service for the customers.

What’s Next?
It will take a while for the network to be financed, engineered and built. We need you to go voice your interest so we know where to build the network first.

While you’re waiting for the fiber network to be built, you can take advantage of our other fiber-backed, very high speed broadband services.

Re-Cap: June’s Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup

Every month Cruzio has the opportunity to attend the Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup, hosted by Doug Erickson and company. These fantastic events showcase a collection of different rising entrepreneurs in the county. It is always exciting to see what new work is happening right here in Santa Cruz!


Here’s a recap of the talks and pitches from Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup’s June installment that we had the privilege to attend.

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Happy Friday!

Hi Santa Cruzians!

Happy Friday! Here are some cool things happening in the area this weekend.

1. Santa Cruz Garage Sale is happening May 30th and 31st

Garage Sales

The City of Santa Cruz sponsors Garage Sale Weekend to promote reuse, repair, and resale opportunities in our community. The City of Santa Cruz will publicize the event, encouraging residents to either hold a sale at their home or go garage sale shopping. The spring 2015 Santa Cruz Garage Sale Weekend is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, May 30th and 31st.  Visit a garage sale near you and check out the Garage Sale Treasure Map at sales.

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NerdWallet Came to Santa Cruz!

Offbeat Santa Cruz Inspires Singular Small Businesses

Santa Cruz, small-business haven

Santa Cruz made history as the place where in 1885 surfing was introduced to the U.S. mainland. Nowadays, it’s also known as the California coastal city where small businesses make big waves.

Take a company called the Surf Office. That’s a communal-workspace company with an unusual perk. If you need a break from office work, you can — what else? — go surfing. Surfboards are provided. The beach is right outside the front door.

Then there’s Best Baby Rentals, which lets you rent a stroller, a crib or baby toys if you’re visiting Santa Cruz with your family. And if you’re into beer, hop on Brew Cruz, a converted school bus that offers tours of the area’s craft breweries.
“Santa Cruz is a very creative city,” Surf Office co-founder Emmanuel Guisset tells NerdWallet. “It has always been full of artists, hippies and surfers, but now more and more startups are popping up, and this creates a creative and innovative environment with different values than Silicon Valley or San Francisco.”

Jeremy Neuner, chief executive and co-founder of NextSpace, cites residents’ work ethic as well as their love of fun. NextSpace is another successful collaborative-workspace company and has already expanded to cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“People want to live here,” he tells NerdWallet, “because they want to work hard and play hard.”

There’s a considerable reserve of creativity and talent in Santa Cruz, says Brent Haddad, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

You need “a whole bunch of things in place” for that environment to  flourish, he tells NerdWallet. Among them, the city “has to have smart, creative people. And Santa Cruz has that in spades.”

Some of the city’s entrepreneurs are people who just came to visit but “ended up falling in love with Santa Cruz and not wanting to go home,” says Rebecca Unitt, economic development coordinator with the city.

That’s what happened to Zach Davis. “Santa Cruz was a place we fell in love with as residents,” he tells NerdWallet.

A few years ago, he and veteran pastry chef Kendra Baker started the Penny Ice Creamery, which makes ice cream from scratch. They eventually expanded the venture into other restaurants now collectively known as The Glass Jar. Their company stresses sustainable food and community, and it became such a shining example of a successful small business following the financial crisis that Baker and Davis were invited to be guests at President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address.

Willing to take a risk

Davis cites the Santa Cruz environment as one of the keys to their success. “There’s a tremendous amount of … people who are willing to take a bit of a risk,” he says.

Bud Colligan, CEO of the investment firm South Swell Ventures and the former chief executive of Macromedia, pointed to “a broad range of very educated and qualified people” whom small companies can easily tap and a “supportive political environment.”

In some ways, Santa Cruz, a city of 63,400 tucked away in a corner of the Central California coast known for its colorful surfer scene and hippie communities, is an unlikely haven for innovative small-business pioneers.

But that diversity and location drew bold-thinking entrepreneurs, says Peggy Dolgenos, co-founder of the local Internet service company Cruzio.

“Santa Cruz has attracted a motley group because it’s off the beaten track and such a beautiful place,” she tells NerdWallet.

“We have a top-notch university, UC Santa Cruz, so we have the movie theaters, coffee houses and bookshops that intellectuals love. At the same time, we’re surrounded by jagged mountains, towering redwoods and some of the best surf breaks in the world. Who would choose to live in a place like that? Turns out, a lot of creative people do.”

Teresa Thomae, director of the Cabrillo College Small Business Development Center, tells NerdWallet, “Santa Cruz has always been a pretty entrepreneurial community.”

A small-business owner, even someone just starting out, can expect support from local government and organizations and the community itself, says Krista Bordner, who quit her Silicon Valley job to start Best Baby Rentals.

“It’s overwhelming how supportive people have been,” she tells NerdWallet. “It just felt so good to feel supported by our local community and local businesses, to know that they want me to succeed as a small business.”

Christina Glynn, communications director for the Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council, echoed this sentiment, calling Santa Cruz “a perfect environment” for business leaders and innovators. “We are so open to new ideas and thinking outside the box,” she tells NerdWallet.

That openness is shared by city and business leaders. Davis of The Glass Jar praises Santa Cruz for offering “some really valuable resources for business.” You can see what he’s talking about on the Santa Cruz city government website, under “Business Support.”

Great tool for startups in Santa Cruz

A central feature of the website is Open Counter, the online system the city developed with Code for America, a nonprofit focused on transparency in government. It was set up a few years ago to help entrepreneurs hoping to set up shop in Santa Cruz.

It’s a critical tool for anyone thinking of opening a small business in the city. With Open Counter, you can go through the step-by-step process of setting up your small business in Santa Cruz. Included are a checklist of permits and licenses you’ll need to apply for and a schedule of the fees you will need to pay.

“Our role is to be the advocate for businesses in the community. We focus on providing resources at the early stages, when the business is just starting out,” says Unitt of the Santa Cruz Economic Development department.

In fact, it’s not just for businesses starting out. Davis of The Glass Jar said his company used it when opening his latest restaurant.  “It definitely got things moving a lot quicker, which was pretty cool,” he says.

You can expect help beyond cool online tools, says Bill Tysseling, executive director of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We have lots of experienced people here to help,” he tells NerdWallet.

One of them is Dolgenos of Cruzio, which started in 1989, even before the World Wide Web went live.  It’s no surprise that small companies such as Cruzio have managed not only to survive, but also to thrive despite facing stiff competition from giants including Comcast and AT&T, she says.

“Santa Cruz welcomes new and different ideas, so small businesses here have an advantage,” says Dolgenos, who is also the chair of the Santa Cruz County Business Council.

“People here think that something unique is a good thing. For a company like Cruzio, an independent Internet provider, that allows us to survive,” he says. “We compete with Comcast and AT&T, who have zillion-dollar ad budgets, and yet we have thrived. Our community is willing to support a local alternative to a national corporation.”

Of course, as with any city or region, expect to encounter challenges as a small-business owner in Santa Cruz. “I often sit down with people who are trying to figure out whether they want to jump in,” Tysseling says. “Starting a business anywhere is a daunting process.”

Housing costs a challenge

One challenge he cites is the high cost of housing. The median home price in Santa Cruz is $666,300, according to city data. A low-end one-bedroom apartment in Santa Cruz rents for roughly $1,300 to $1,500, Tysseling says. City and business leaders are looking to build higher-density units, he says, but housing costs are definitely a challenge for companies looking to locate here.

For one thing, it makes recruiting young workers more challenging. “We have a strong base of workers,” he says. “But in general, it is difficult to bring in skilled workers because of the cost of housing.”

Unitt, of the Santa Cruz Economic Development department, also cautions that despite “amazing” ideas for services and products, there can be bumps in the road. “Even having an MBA doesn’t always prepare them for how to get their small business established and growing.”

Your business plan may be flawless, but your small business will encounter opportunities and adjust to the market,” Unitt says. “Small businesses are at their most precarious when fast growth pounces and vision, values, and strategy struggle to remain balanced.”

This is where city and business leaders can help, she says. “We can connect you with free, confidential, expert business consulting through the Central Coast Small Business Development Center to ensure your fast-growing business has the long game in mind as well.”

The good news is, according to those we talked with, meeting these challenges is more engaging and fun in a place like Santa Cruz.

If you’re thinking of starting a small business in the city, here are some good places to start:

  • City of Santa Cruz Economic Development
  • Cabrillo College Small Business Development Center (also known as the Central Coast Small Business Development Center)
  • Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce
  • Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council
  • Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of California, Santa Cruz

For more information about how to start and run a business, visit NerdWallet’s Small Business Guide. For free, personalized answers to questions about starting and financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.

Benjamin Pimentel is a staff writer covering small business for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter @benpimentel, on Google+ and on LinkedIn.