KERN BACK IN BUSINESS: Growing Shafter's jobs

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -
Shafter recently celebrated its first centennial. Founded in 1913 the 19,000 person city has its roots in oil and agricultural. 
As Shafter moves deeper into its second century, city manager Scott Hurlbert said its time for Shafter to pull away from being just an ag and oil city. 
“And those are cyclic types of industries. And they do have ups and downs. And I think it’s just smart to have a plan that includes diversifying our economic base,” said Hurlbert.
In the late 1990s Target opened their distribution center off Seventh Standard Road. It was the beginning of their industrial overhaul. Hurlbert said in recent years they have added city infrastructure to the privately owned Wonderful Industrial Park. He said the city added a city-owned rail line into the park, a container yard, as well as installed high-speed fiber Internet to the industrial park to help lure in prospective businesses.
“And we work with them to make sure that there are as few barriers as possible for folks to choose this area for their facilities," said Hurlbert.
Shafter is located within three to four hours of Northern California, Southern California and Las Vegas. It sits between the 99 and the 5 and has a freight train stop. For businesses like Walmart, who recently announced they’re opening a new distribution center, Shafter is a strategic location.
Walmart spokesperson, Michelle Malashock, said, “We found that Shafter is in that sweet spot for us that’s really going to help us get goods to our customers faster and more reliably than we can with our current facilities.”
Malashock said a lot of those new jobs moving into Shafter are STEM-based. STEM is an area Shafter has been focusing on since their new Learning Center opened in 2014.
Shafter Learning Center's program coordinator, Amerika Niño-Rodriguez, “We offer a variety of courses especially in STEM. So offering classes they might not normally wouldn’t see where they’re building rockets, learning about airplanes, other science subjects.”
Niño-Rodriguez say the Learning Center also offers help in reading and tutoring for first graders to high school students. They also encourage Shafter high school students to challenge themselves with advanced placement courses. Niño-Rodriguez said Shafter gives financial awards to students who score well on AP tests. A student gets paid $100 dollars for scoring a 3 out of 5, $150 for a 4 out of 5 and $200 for a 5 out of 5. And Nino-Rodriguez said that extra attention to education will hopefully build a more educated workforce in Shafter for their growing STEM jobs.
Niño-Rodriguez, “So really thinking about not just the individual student, but also how that individual student will one day come back and work in those industries and help develop those industries here in Shafter.”
News of the push for education and new jobs coming to Shafter has already turned some heads. Marina Romero said she recently moved with her husband and son from East Bakersfield to the new housing subdivision in Shafter near the industrial park Romero .
Romero said, “[I'm] Excited! Really, really excited. I think you know they need that out here.”
Hurlbert said the city approved more than 31-hundred new homes to be built. And if all of those homes are completed, Shafter could see their population nearly double.
Romero said, "That’s exciting for all the new parents that have little kids. Our neighbor just had a little one. So that’s really good. There’s a lot of little kids around here.”
While Hurlbert said the city can’t say who might be the next major business to move into Shafter. But he does said, Shafter has laid the groundwork to make that future move as easy as possible.
“I think other companies look at that and it takes away some of the risk in their minds you know of saying, ‘Hey Shafter is a good place to do business.’ It eliminates some of that reluctance to come to a new market,” said Hurlbert.
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