Bakersfield among best California cities for recession recovery

Bakersfield among best California cities for recession recovery

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The city is among the top three in the state in a recent study on recovery from the recession.

The ranking from WalletHub pegs Bakersfield, San Francisco and San Jose as the best in California.

"If you look at the fastest-growing economies in the last few years, we're actually right up there with San Jose," Richard Chapman told Eyewitness News on Thursday. He's the president and CEO of Kern Economic Development Corp., and he sees good things for Bakersfield and Kern County.

Chapman said another recent study puts our area as third or fourth in the nation for recovery from the recession.

The ranking from WalletHub shows other parts of the country doing better on recovery. Six of the top 10 cities are in Texas.

The highest California city is San Francisco at 20. Bakersfield comes in at No. 23, and San Jose is No. 35.

The analysis looks at issues like the rate of decrease for unemployment, median household income, home prices, crime, business growth and municipality bankruptcy.

They used 18 metrics, and compared the 150 biggest metropolitan areas in the United States.

Chapman said Bakersfield fares well because strong local industries - oil and agriculture - didn't lose as many jobs as other areas during the recession.

"For instance, L.A. lost almost 15 percent of their base, we lost 3 to 4 percent," he said Thursday.

Chapman said oil and ag could "tread water quickly" after the recession. Observers say the "great recession" officially ended five years ago.

The study also looks at unemployment rates, and Chapman said local numbers are better there.

"Unemployment has dropped," he said. "It used to be around 14, 15 percent. Now that's around 10 or 11."

He also said median household income is rising at a faster rate in our area.

"We have a long way to go, but if you look at income growth, we're in the top, I'd say 5 or 10 metro regions in the country," Chapman said. "Our per-capita income is higher than Fresno."

He said Kern County is also beating our neighbor to the north in another way.

"Several years ago, we passed Fresno in terms of the size of the regional economy," he said. That's income and product output.

From Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, President Steve Renock said the local area's recovery is going well compared to other places but said it's still "slow."

Renock told Eyewitness News segments of the local economy are still cautious, especially agriculture, though he called oil and residential construction "bright spots."

The recovery ranking also looked at whether there are more college-educated workers. Chapman said that's still a challenge for the Bakersfield and Kern County areas. But, he said other types of workers are increasing.

"The good news is that the percentage of the population with technical two-year degrees is increasing higher than the U.S. average," he said.

Chapman talked about the increase of "light blue collar" workers, and called that a positive trend. He said those are employees in jobs like logistics at the increasing number of distribution centers, energy, health care, and what he calls "value-added agriculture."

Chapman also said Kern County is No. 1 in the nation in another study for income mobility, which he describes as being able to move from the bottom 20 percent income level to the top 20 percent.

The WalletHub study looked at business growth, and Chapman points to examples like additional retail at the River Walk development and the soon-to-open Outlets at Tejon.

He thinks Kern can bring in more business and jobs, especially by trying to get more companies to move up from Southern California.

"The joke being is people in L.A. think we're five hours away," Chapman said. "We know we're probably two hours away."

He hopes to form more economic progress by luring more business here, and more young families, especially from Southern California and the Midwest.

"We're trying to reposition and show why Kern County is good for business as well as families," Chapman said. "So, I think we're getting traction there."