SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Each day thousands of tech workers commute from the Central Coast over the hill to Silicon Valley.
For so many tech workers the commute from Santa Cruz to Silicon Valley begins at the crack of dawn, but the early start doesn’t bother Andrew Lawton, especially since he isn’t driving.
The Google contractor has been commuting over the hill for a few years now but just started taking this company offered double decker bus in May.
Lawton said, "Driving is an enormous load on your body, it's a lot of strain, a lot of stress. It turns out it's a lot of effort, a lot more effort than you'd think until you get on the bus oh 'wow I have more energy at the end of the day because I wasn't driving."
The bus is one of the many amenities that the big tech companies offer employees who live so far away. Jonathan Hicken, a former tech worker used to drive roughly three hours daily, to and from Mountain View, his experience was far from perfect.
"Over the course of those couple years you know I gained 20 pounds, my relationship with my wife had suffered because I came home exhausted every day. It was pretty isolating. It was bad for my health. Bad for some of my relationship,” said Hicken.
The commute got so bad Hicken eventually left the tech field all together. But what about bringing more tech jobs to our side of the hill? That’s where Bonnie Lipscomb steps in. She’s the executive director of economic development with the city of Santa Cruz.
Lipscomb said, "We started an organization called Santa Cruz Works that's focused on local tech companies and science companies here in Santa Cruz...and creating an ecosystem that helps and supports tech companies grow and thrive in Santa Cruz."
“Santa Cruz Works” helps mainly with job recruitment and advertising but also with meetings and mixers that highlight some of the new trends in tech.
The push seems to be working, Amazon has been in Santa Cruz since 2015. They currently have 16 openings, even using the dreadful drive on Highway 17 to convince people to apply.
Looker, ProductOps and Fullpower are also downtown and they are all hiring. There are also loads of tech workers who rent out of individual spaces at places like Cruzio and Nextspace. And with a new fiber internet project in the works, Santa Cruz wants more.
Lipscomb said, “We are really working towards, as a city, as a community to be that vibrant tech hub.”
But with Santa Cruz making more of an effort to go tech, what does this mean for housing in an already troubled market?
Lipscomb said, "Our goal to provide more housing more all...and we have between 500 and 700 housing units already approved for the downtown...and a different levels of affordability...so we are supporting the creation of all types of housing to support a range of workers throughout the community.
Folks who make the commute surely wouldn’t mind having a shorter drive but only if it was for the right job. One things for certain, Santa Cruz wants to be the right fit.
"The future for tech in Santa Cruz is very vibrant,” said Lipscomb.