Bakersfield is largely known for its agriculture and oil industries, but now, people are recognizing its growth in other areas.
“We see existing companies expanding, we’ve had some food processing plants really expand, and we’re looking at some other distribution centers expanding,” says Melinda Brown, the business development director for the Kern Economic Development Corporation.
She says Bakersfield is booming when it comes to construction jobs and manufacturing. The city leads the country in year to year construction job growth.
“We’re fortunate that the construction has boomed so much as it has,” Brown says. “We have a much more cost-effective place to do business as far as land costs, wages, cost of living, that's a very important attractive piece."
The U.S. Census Bureau shows Bakersfield’s population has grown 500 percent in 40 years, from 70,000 people to nearly 350,000. That makes it one of the fastest-growing cities in California.
“I always think that Bakersfield along with being the ninth largest city in California, that we're enormous when it comes to our community and our community services," says Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall.
Hall like many in Bakersfield are happy to see the Los Angeles Times featured the city in on the page of its Sunday paper.
"If Bakersfield can be touted as a booming community and give us recognition in a positive way, then I’m very happy about that," he says. “Certainly, agriculture and the petroleum industry are vital parts of our economy, but I know that business and property owners are trying to upgrade the image of Bakersfield, we’ve got more and more beatification efforts taking place so that we can make a favorable impression of folks traveling through our community.”
Another area where the city is growing is cancer research. San Joaquin Community Hospital is building a new cancer center downtown.
"We’re excited about this project not only because the amazing economic growth it will bring to our community with well-paying jobs and new services,” says Jarrod McNaughton, Vice President of San Joaquin Community Hospital. “It also will to try to meet a major community need with keeping people here locally as they're being treated here for cancer."
Construction for the cancer center is scheduled to be completed in December with the hospital taking its first patients in January.
Regardless of the growth, residents are happy to call "Bako" home, and many say they couldn’t imagine living anywhere else that gives residents the best of so many worlds.
"If you don't really want to be in a big place, or you don't want to be too small, it's kind of that in between place in size, which is pretty ideal,” says Gianine Verdugo-Berlingeri, who has lived in Bakersfield for seven years since leaving San Diego for her local job in pharmaceutical sales.
“It was a culture shock, definitely a lot smaller than what I was used to, but the cost of living was attractive, and it’s a great place to raise a family.”
Gabriel Garcia was raised in Bakersfield and left to go to school in Santa Cruz before returning.
"With my children, I just figured that if I had a great life here, my kids deserved it too,” Garcia says. “So I decided, hey I’m going to come back here, it's a big little city."