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Defying the Odds, Bakersfield Booms

California's Central Valley was one of the areas hardest hit by the Great Recession, with several of its cities still burdened by the worst unemployment rates in the country. Signs in Bakersfield, however, point to a burgeoning boom.
September 11, 2012, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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According to Ricardo Lopez, the mid-size Central Valley city best known for oil, agriculture and country music, is becoming a boomtown, with employment and population growing at a brisk pace. Lopez attributes the city's good fortune to, "A price-fueled energy bonanza, low corporate operating costs and an advantageous location." With government spending up, corporations expanding into the area, and the number of jobs just shy of peak levels, the area is on an upward trend.

"But despite these gains," notes Lopez, "county economic planners say Bakersfield is still hindered by a variety of weaknesses. Among them, they say, many outsiders view the city as little more than a dusty industrial and agriculture town near an interstate."

A poorly educated workforce is another challenge. That's why Richard Chapman, president of the Kern County Economic Development Corp., believes that, "Developing residents' skills is a priority to ensure that employment growth is more widespread and includes well-paying jobs for area residents."

"The only thing that can stop us," Chapman said, "is the availability of the workforce." 

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Published on Sunday, September 9, 2012 in Los Angeles Times
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