BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) -
For most of its existence, Bakersfield, Calif., has inhabited that awkward in-between place. Not as sophisticated as Los Angeles, not as wealthy as its longtime economic rival Fresno.
As many places continue to struggle, good things are happening in the city best known for oil fields and the "Bakersfield Sound" -- a twangy style of steel guitar music made popular by hometown country crooners Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
Bakersfield and surrounding Kern County are atop key national lists measuring economic vitality: No. 1 metro area for long-term private sector job growth and No. 1 large metro area for annual economic growth.
Despite the progress, hurdles remain. Unemployment in the county is 12.4 percent, down from December 2010 but still above the statewide average of 9.8 percent.