Once a recurring punch line in Johnny Carson’s monologues, the agriculture-and-oil town of Bakersfield, California–home to the country’s most prolific carrot farm–is not the most obvious example of a West Coast startup hub.
But the Central Valley city, population 400,000, has vaulted onto this year’s Surge Cities list by outperforming 46 other metro areas–including the Bay Area, Boston, and Seattle–in net job and business creation in the past year.
“Incredible things are happening here,” says Irma Olguin Jr., co-founder and CEO of Bitwise Industries, a Fresno-based tech academy and software startup that’s helped create about 1,000 jobs in the area. It’s opening a Bakersfield location in 2020. “We’re seeing validation from VCs and investment banks, and there is a momentum around local revitalization.”