A high quality of life and a desirable place to call home
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Coalinga, California for our focus on Infrastructure & Economic Development in U.S. Cities
Established in 1906, Coalinga is a city that truly stands on its own. Tucked into California’s Pleasant Valley, on the edge of the coastal mountain range, the close-knit community has all the requirements to be self-sustaining and to offer a high quality of life to its 18,000 residents. Located 60 miles from the metropolitan city of Fresno, Coalinga is 10 miles west of Interstate 5 and is surrounded by a lush backdrop of rolling hills and natural beauty.
“Coalinga is the perfect definition of a quaint little community. We have strong community support and pride,” describes City Manager, Marissa Trejo. “We are sort of isolated because there are no cities that butt up right against us, we’re surrounded by unincorporated areas. So, we are a very self-sufficient community, and we draw from the resources we have.”
Marketing Coalinga as “the most business-friendly city in the state of California”, the city has compiled a list of reasons they believe this to be true. On that list is the way COVID was handled in the community, as Trejo recounts, “Our governor said that only the essential businesses could stay open. For us, in Coalinga, because we are so isolated and so independent and reliant on all of our businesses, we didn’t feel that that was fair. So, our City Council adopted a resolution declaring all businesses in Coalinga as essential businesses.”
This bold act resulted in the city being denied CARES act funding for not complying, but Trejo says, “For us as a community, it was worth it. We didn’t really lose businesses during COVID as many other communities did.” Stressing that precautions were taken to ensure safety, she adds, “It’s not like we were being careless. It’s just we allowed them all to open and find ways that they could continue to stay open and provide services to the community in a safe way.”
Streamlining the planning process is also part of the business-friendly environment in Coalinga, with Trejo reporting that excellent customer service is a priority throughout the city’s streamlined planning and building processes. “We are a small city, so when someone comes in, if they’re a developer, they don’t have to deal with all these layers of city government,” she shares, explaining that it is herself or the Assistant City Manager, Sean Brewer who handles all development inquiries. “I think that’s nice, because we have the answers to give them rather than them dealing with entry-level staff that have to pass the project on, and then it gets handed off to the next person. Our processes are very streamlined here.”
Incentives are also offered to companies who are looking at locating in Coalinga. “We don’t necessarily have a menu of items for them to pick from because every business is different. We listen to them, and then I try to see if we can develop incentives that would help them to actually open here.” Small business grants during COVID, extended hours at City Hall, and flexibility towards developers are all part of the business-friendly initiatives in Coalinga. “Our city council is very pro-growth, and so if there are any fees the developer is requesting to waive, I can’t guarantee that the council will approve it, but we always take it to them and let them decide if that’s something they want to do or not. We really do have great customer service in the city, and that’s everybody here. I think that makes us stand out as being a very business-friendly city,” Trejo says.
In terms of workforce development, the community relies on a partnership with West Hills Community College, which has both a campus and a district office in Coalinga. “West Hills College is so easy to work with,” says Trejo. “If we have a new industry coming to town, they will develop a curriculum to teach those employees.”
Offering the example of the psych tech curriculum brought in by the college when the Coalinga State Hospital was opened, she adds, “Anyone from the community who wants to be a psych tech can go through the program at West Hills College and then get picked up by the state hospital to be a psych tech there. That’s just one example, but West Hills will do that all the time. They have regular community input meetings. They’re so easy to work with and so forward-thinking. They’re always available to help us create a solid workforce.”
Strong partnerships with Coalinga’s major employers, which include oil and gas companies, the Pleasant Valley State Prison, Coalinga State Hospital, and Granite Construction, are mutually beneficial, as Brewer explains, “They employ a lot of people in this community, but also, when the city is in need of something, these are folks that we reach out to, and they reach out to the community when needed. So, I think there’s a good relationship with all of these organizations that help the community continue to be able to move forward progressively.”
Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant, which sits outside of Coalinga city limits, is another valued community partner. As one of the first and largest “Farm to Fork,” dining destinations in California, Harris Ranch offers both casual and fine dining, accommodations, banquet facilities, and a country store, and is a major employer, and a source of business to the city. As a progressive company, they are installing the largest Tesla charging station in the world, which Trejo notes is beneficial for the community.
“Harris Ranch does have a lot of things to accommodate people as sort of a one-stop shop there, and that brings people into Coalinga as well. Not only that, but if people are commuting to Coalinga from other places, Harris Ranch is only about 15 minutes outside of the downtown area, and that gives them a place to charge at a supercharger station.”
On the city side, Brewer acknowledges that a significant investment in water infrastructure is necessary for Coalinga, to sustain the current system which is at least 50 years old. “We’re rehabilitating some of our storage tanks that are definitely aging, doing upgrades at our water plant, looking at innovative technologies to deliver safe and reliable drinking water, as well as looking at ways to acquire additional resources of water. In terms of drought, we are looking for other ways to be able to secure more water allocations during years of drought, to ensure that we have an adequate supply for our residents and businesses.”
Road and sewer infrastructure upgrades are ongoing, as well as work on the natural gas system, which is maintained by the City of Coalinga. “We are looking at the capacity to make sure that we can support the growth that the council and the community are desiring,” says Brewer. “We have to make sure that we have the capacity to be able to support that growth as well.”
Looking to the future of the city Brewer asserts, “We’re trying to be the most business-attractive city. We’re open to any and all business at this point, in terms of trying to bring folks in, trying to diversify what’s available to the community, and being open for folks that are willing to invest in this community. We have some big initiatives right now.”
To put more of a focus on economic development, the city has contracted with the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation, business recruitment firm Retail Strategies, and public relations company Criscom. “All three of those are really to help us bring new businesses to Coalinga. We have sort of a target of who we’d like to bring, we definitely need more retail, we need more restaurants, we need family entertainment. We pay an annual contract fee that’s pretty significant to each one of those companies because our five members who are serving on the city council are very pro-growth. So, we’re making some pretty significant investments to try to bring new businesses to Coalinga,” Trejo says.
With progressive planning and a friendly approach, the City of Coalinga will continue to welcome new opportunities, securing its reputation as “The most business-friendly city in the state of California.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: A self-sufficient city of 18,000 in California’s Pleasant Valley Region
Where: Fresno County, California
Coalinga-Huron Unified School District – www.chusd.org
The town of Coalinga is growing and welcoming new families to the area. To encourage such expansion the city makes it its priority to keep its valued partners by its side and to work collaboratively with outstanding partners such as the highly regarded Coalinga-Huron Unified School District
With educational initiatives that are second to none, the Coalinga-Huron Unified School District ensures that the schools in the region are providing learning environments and instructional programs that both inspire and challenge students. Offering attractive, modern, clean, and safe facilities, the Coalinga-Huron Unified School district utilizes strong communication channels with its stakeholders and partners.
Represented by a five-member board consisting of distinguished and experienced trustees that are each elected for a four-year term, the principles upon which the Coalinga-Huron Unified School District rests are reflected through a clearly defined mandate. Always ensuring that there remains a strong commitment to operate with the highest level of integrity, offering transparency while always regarding the teachers and school staff as the most valuable assets, the board works tirelessly to achieve its goals.
With a dedication to fiscal accountability and always accountability to both teachers and parents, the Coalinga-Huron Unified School District continues to provide the ideal environment and facility to ensure a first-rate education for the valued families that call Coalinga home.
Union Bank – www.unionbank.com
Banking with a heart; supporting Coalinga clients and the community for over 50 years
Union Bank® has a rich history of supporting diverse West Coast communities, including the City of Coalinga. The bank’s longstanding commitment to supporting individuals, families, and businesses reach their financial goals is as strong today as ever.
Last year, U.S. Bank announced plans to acquire Union Bank, which is scheduled for December 2022. Union Bank remains deeply committed to the communities it serves, and U.S. Bank shares those values. Earlier this year, U.S. Bank announced a $100 billion five-year community benefits plan focusing on building economic stability, supporting access to capital, entrepreneurship, job retention, and providing critical social safety net services. This plan continues and expands the important work underway by both organizations in the communities they serve.
Going forward, together with its clients and community partners, the combined Union Bank and U.S. Bank organization looks forward to continuing to build a successful future for our communities for generations to come.
Tri City Engineering, Inc. – www.tricityengineering.com
TCE is a consulting firm specializing in professional engineering and project management since 1984. Our firm is founded by individuals with a vision to combine academic engineering research, practical engineering, and personal relationships into a high quality, beneficial experience for the client and professional.