For new business owners, acquiring the right permits from their city government can be confusing. It's not always clear which department should be contacted or what permits are actually required for a project. Most small business owners are required to apply for permits from seven different departments (often in triplicate). The process can frustrate local entrepreneurs, limiting economic development and stifling local job creation.

Santa Cruz's CTO Chris Stathis and Economic Coordinator Peter Koht partnered with Code for America fellows Jim Craner, Ruthie BenDor, Tamara Shopsin to make it easier for businesses to get started. Together, they used technology to streamline the process for entrepreneurs applying for permits.

The team built OpenCounter as a simple 24-7 web interface for business permit applications and tracking. Now entrepreneurs can see which permits they needed to apply for, how long it would take, and fees required. The app as so successful that the OpenCounter team was accepted to the Code for America Accelerator program and the app has since transitioned into a full-fledged company.

Other projects, the fellows worked on that year include launching the city's open data portal, building Blockee a tool that lets citizens design their city streets and updated the city's bike lockers.

The City of Santa Cruz has an open data portal featuring 50+ datasets and the community has helped launch some amazing startups. A current lack of a Code for America Brigade presents a unique leadership opportunity for local civic tech hackers. If you'd like to help start a Brigade, check out our list of info for Brigade Captains.

Open Data Portal