My Hometown Reclaims Boomtown Title

Posted on September 20, 2012 by - Also by this author

Bakersfield, Calif., has a booming economy, in spite of everything, according to a Sunday front page feature in the Los Angeles Times.
I guess the first thing that comes to mind, at least my mind is: Yay for me! Our economy in Bakersfield has always been really weird. I remember attending the International LCT Show in Las Vegas in 2007 when people were very gloomy about the economy. When asked how Limousine Scene was doing, I didn’t even want to answer the question. We were doing fantastic. I was embarrassed. By 2008, we were in the toilet like everyone else. Now, I hear the rest of the world can’t seem to get traction to get going again, but not here in my backyard.

According to The Los Angeles Times article, we are just a few thousand people short of matching our peak employment level obtained in 2007. The Times attributes our growth to price driven decisions including low corporate operating costs and very affordable houses. Houses that sell for $500,000 here would easily fetch $2 million in Los Angeles.  From 2000 to 2010, our county population grew to 839,000 people. This was a 27% increase.

While most California municipalities are struggling with their budgets and the California cities of Stockton and Vallejo filed bankruptcy, we are increasing our budget and adding 150 more municipal workers to keep up with our growth. We are building a new 60,000 square foot cancer center in our community and that is just one project that helps us to lead the country in year-over-year construction employment growth. Construction jobs have risen 23% since July 2011 but the state average hovers at 5%.

We have so many industries in our area including petroleum, wind farms, solar plants and agriculture just to name a few that all contribute to our bustling economy. We have cheap office space and plenty of it. Our permitting and licensing process moves swiftly.  Our land is really cheap. State Farm built a huge processing center here where thousands of employees work and live comfortably in our city in three- to four- bedroom homes ranging from $160,000 to $240,000. We are two hours from the Port of Los Angeles, one hour from mountains that offer snow skiing, and one hour from the Mojave Desert, offering something for everyone.

The Bakersfield area is the home for many distribution centers including Caterpillar, Target, Famous Footware, Dollar General and Ikea. These distribution centers are massive structures of 400,000 square feet or larger and employ thousands of people working round the clock with trucks coming in with new products and trucks heading out to stores to replenish inventory.

Hopefully as we continue to grow we can shed the nasty image bestowed upon us by the late Johnny Carson who declared Bakersfield the “armpit of California” or the image of being a dusty little town next to an interstate. By the way, Mr. Carson got his start right here in Bakersfield doing stand-up comedy when he was a nobody and his nightclub joke of Bakersfield was far more caustic than the “armpit” version. To summarize in nice words, he said that if California needed to have a bowel movement, Bakersfield would be the exit point. That’s as clean as I can make it here folks but certainly was offensive to those of us who call Bakersfield, “home.”

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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