Thriving from Agriculture to Logistics
One of California’s fastest-growing cities, Shafter has a lot going on
With the pandemic comfortably behind us, cities across the country still have a lot to contend with. There remain some supply chain disruptions, a continuing inflationary climate, and a labor shortage affecting many economic sectors. Although some municipalities may be feeling the pinch, the opposite can be said about Shafter, California.
Shafter is rather, a city on the move and experiencing measurable growth and no one knows this more than the city’s Business Development Coordinator, Bob Meadows, who recently told us all about the city named for Gen. William Rufus Shafter. A Union hero of the War Between the States who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Fair Oaks in 1864, Shafter (an Anglicization of the German surname, Schäffter) would go on to fight in the Spanish-American War, where he saw much action.
Action is also synonymous these days with the general’s namesake community. Long famous as a big part of California’s central breadbasket, and now known as well for its manufacturing and logistics, a lot is going on in Shafter, Meadows reveals.
The city is a suburb of Bakersfield (some 18 miles away), comprising some 38 square miles and located in Kern County. Shafter is home to more than 21,000 folks these days, some 80 percent of whom are Hispanic, he adds, and it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in all of California.
“We’re in a great spot right now,” he says, “the city is. Work, jobs, housing: Shafter is very much all about moving forward—very steadily, very judiciously, and very well planned.”
Incorporated in 1938, the history of the community that became Shafter goes back several generations further. As Meadows explains, it began as a humble railroad stop back in the 1800s. The first post office was created there in 1898.
“Shafter has always been an ag town,” Meadows adds, revealing that some 40 percent of the local workforce continues to be engaged in some form of agriculture. “But we have an increasing presence in logistics. We’re one of the biggest logistics hubs on the West Coast.
Quite possibly, as time goes by, we’ll become one of the largest in the nation.”
Within the last couple of years, the median age has begun to drop, he added. The average citizen of Shafter these days is just 29 years old. How is that possible? Meadows informs that Shafter is the kind of community from which kids may leave, going off to college. But they come back. They return to work and live in this charming place.
The city of Bakersfield has an enormous economic gravitational pull. As Meadows points out, with well more than 400,000 residents now, it’s the 48th largest city in the country and the ninth largest in California.
However, Shafter is quickly gaining on it and establishing its own unique identity. Meadows cites the new Gossamer Grove neighborhood as a prime example. By the end of 2025, this development will have a total of about 2,500 new homes. He continues that Shafter is truly poised for significant housing growth, with more than 5,000 lots planned.
On top of that is the Wonderful Industrial Park owned by Stewart Resnick, a noted billionaire baron of business and one of the richest men in the United States. The 1,600+ acre facility opened in 2003 with Target as the first tenant, with various national and international companies now providing nearly 10,000 jobs. The WIP plans to expand another five million square feet and add as many as 5,000 new jobs from the growing number of tenants.
Many communities across America are going green these days, and since the early 1970s, California has always been at the forefront of this commendable environmentally conscious movement. Shafter is aware and isn’t doing anything special, as Meadows points out, “We’re just looking to be smart about the things that we do,” he observes.
Making it work
As with most such cities, there are a number of entities coming together to make Shafter work.
According to KGET News-17, the Bakersfield-based NBC affiliate, the list is long for companies making things happen in Shafter which includes Amazon Soft Goods Fulfillment Center, Ross Dress for Less, Fed-Ex Ground Hub Facility, Target Distribution Center, Richland School District, Walmart Fresh & Frozen Distribution Center, Kern High School District, Williams Sonoma, The Garlic Company, Bidart Brothers, Bakersfield College, Performance Food Group, California Paper, Cemex, GAF Roofing, Smuckers, Scelzi Manufacturing, American Tire Distributors, State Farm Insurance and the Hillman Group.
As well, there are also GMC Roofing, Grimmway Enterprises, J.D. Rush, and Richland Chevrolet Company, The Shafter Research Station,
Then there are the parks and recreation components. They’re among the most popular parts of Shafter, as Meadows tells us.
“Shafter is very family-oriented and very sports-oriented,” he explains. “Our parks are not only heavily and regularly maintained, but also, they’re all well-lighted and well-landscaped. We just added an exercise facility to one of them. We are adding more basketball courts and more covered areas for picnics and family gatherings. Our parks are a major attraction.” Shafter Parks and Recreation Department will also soon break ground for a 40-acre multi-sports field.
ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act; advanced in the wake of the COVID scare) and California Clean Grant funds have been invested in parks and other city infrastructure upgrades.
For example, the City is spending some $2 million over the next couple of years to upgrade its aquatic center. This includes cleaning up the Shafter Aquatic Center, located on Poso Avenue, and revitalizing it so that swim teams can come back and have competitions.
“We were very judicious with that,” Meadows says of all grant funding. “That will be invested back into the city.”
Such efforts, he adds, will only serve to make Shafter all the more attractive to families and to prospective new businesses as well. Shafter, he reveals, is the safest city in the Central Valley. It has the lowest rate of crime (just one murder in the last six years).
“We are also the most fiscally sound city in the Central Valley,” he adds, “and we’re in the top 10 of all the cities in California for our fiscal stability.”
Shafter has no pension debt, he continues. In the year ahead, the City will be taking on more staffers, including in economic development and hiring branding, development, and retail consultants to spread the gospel of Shafter around the country and the globe.
This is all commensurate with the community’s projected growth. The population could be as high as 30,000 by 2030, as Meadows reveals. In addition, because of the City’s fiscal responsibility and rock-solid stability, it happily possessed a whopping $25 million in unassigned reserves. That also means Shafter will be able to put its best collective foot forward and concentrate on getting more business-related properties shovel ready. It all ties in with the City’s capital improvements plan.
This will make Shafter a hub of new activity. A new hotel is among the plans. The new Starbucks came online a year ago. Growth and expansion will also come in the logistics and retail sectors, only adding to the City’s healthy tax base and its already swelling coffers.
All of this will serve to invest in the city and only make Shafter even better than it already is, as Meadows points out.
“People really like to tell you stories about their connection to Shafter, and they’re all good,” he says. “People like this city.”
Returning to the topic of capital improvements, he cites a budget for this almost $70 million to be spent in the next five years. This will include the installation of roundabouts at troublesome intersections and a new rail-related project to improve the transportation of goods to and from Shafter. The City itself owns more than five miles of railroad tracks.
Meadows points out that Shafter is the heart of California. That’s not just hyperbole or metaphor, he adds it’s simply geographically correct. That centrality not only helps facilitate the transportation of goods along the Golden State’s roadways and to its many ports, but it also helps to create more jobs.
Meadows credits his fellow City of Shafter staffers for their efforts as well. One of them is the critical position of community engagement manager. Rachel Zermeno, who he commends highly for excellent work in this new job.
“She specifically uses our social media and becomes our touchpoint for the public,” Meadows informs, adding that Zermeno also connects the City’s other department heads and facilitates that all-important greater communication.
Meadows emphasized that Shafter’s ongoing success is the result of the committed team of city staffers. “Public Works folks are the daily heroes keeping Shafter clean, fixing roads and making improvements, and the Police Department proactively manages our daily safety.”
In addition, he says “it takes a lot of work to keep a city running, as well as strong leadership.”
With sound finances, a safe environment, and an involved community, Shafter is poised for economic growth surpassing even its impressive history. Meadows mentions, “you might want to keep your eye on Shafter.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: A city on the move and experiencing measurable growth
Where: the agricultural heart of the Golden Bear State
California Resources Corp. – www.crc.com
COMMITTED TO THE ENERGY TRANSITION
California Resources Corporation (CRC) is an independent energy and carbon management company committed to low carbon energy and reducing emissions in California to help meet the state’s ambitious climate goals. CRC recognizes that climate change needs to be addressed through thoughtful and responsible government and private sector policies and market-based technology solutions that must benefit working families and all parts of our society. CRC has some of the lowest carbon intensity production in the US, and is focused on developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) and other emissions reducing projects in California. Some of CRC’s proposed projects include Carbon TerraVault and the California Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hub. CRC prioritizes local essential energy production and carbon management projects in California because they enable local jobs performed by a highly skilled workforce under the state’s leading safety, labor, human rights, and environmental standards. With a Full-Scope Net Zero Goal by 2045, CRC is leading CCS and local energy production, and empowering our local communities, such as the City of Shafter in Kern County, to be a solution in the energy transition.
Learn more about CRC’s technology solutions that are helping decarbonize California: crc.com CarbonTerraVault.com
Walmart – www.walmart.com
Walmart PDC 8852 in Shafter, CA is pioneering the way for automated grocery distribution in the supply chain network. Utilizing cutting edge technology, the DC is servicing stores with accuracy, efficiency, and reliability. Delivering to 122 stores and employing over 300 Associates, Shafter invests its time and resources back into the community so we can all save money and live better.