Published in The Merced County Times on October 5th, 2017.
Chances are, you’ve heard that Merced is “two hours away from everything” our Golden State has to offer. Skiing, sailing, wine tasting - if you can name it, we’re not too far away. The strange part about this well-known secret is just that - not many folks outside of our own community seem to know about it.
Prior to moving to this amazing Valley of ours, we lived in San Francisco, a revolving-door of transplants trying to make it in the ‘big city’. Once people found out that we moved from San Francisco to Merced, the question that often followed was, “Why Merced?”. Sincere questions demand thoughtful answers; I’ve elected to help address that oft-asked question by many of our coastal friends when inquiring about Merced and our neighboring communities.
While San Francisco is a great city to live in for a season, it quickly feels like it has an expiration date for those not born there. The city is a rotating door for those seeking new opportunities in a city scape, and does not provide a foundation for those who want to grow in life outside of their careers. In 2016, we realized that our time in San Francisco was coming to an end; many of our close friends had moved on, either back to their state of origin or surrounding suburbs and were entering different stages of their lives. We knew we wanted to move, but where? Where could we live that we could afford a home and have a high-quality of life? After some research, the answer was not the Bay Area; a sad truth for two people that were born and raised in Santa Clara County. However, this initial barrier presented a golden opportunity for us and we chose to take it.
So, why Merced? For starters, my husband, Aaron, is a graduate of the inaugural class of UC Merced. Similar to many outside of the community, the university was the initial reason we knew about Merced. I knew about his early days in Merced, where many members of the university and the community invested in him and gave him opportunity to succeed. Being from a large city, I had always wanted to make our home in a town with a strong sense of community and family values.
The line of thinking goes like this: one can put a down payment on a home that can be afforded, be close enough to enjoy sports events and seasonal activities without the fuss of traffic, and pick up incredible hobbies that are affordable and unique (hiking in the Sierras!). Most importantly to us, we wanted to live here because we knew we could get involved and make a difference in the community. It was a pleasant surprise when our community involvement became the highlight of day-to-day life, and the leading driver of our social calendar.
We saw Merced’s potential and wanted to be a part of the growth. If you have a desire to help in your community in the Valley, your voice will be heard; you can make an impact if you so choose to use it. If you live in a city like San Francisco, San Jose, or Oakland, it's rare that city leaders notice when you move in or move out. We factored all of these considerations and decided that Merced would be our new home.
Merced is a town where you can know the Mayor, the City Manager, the City Council Members, business owners, and other community leaders, if you so choose. It’s a place where you can start an club, join an organization, or benefit from the endless amount of town events put on by them. It’s a community where people can get to know you and care about how you’re doing - all you have to do is show up.
While we know that Merced is a place worth hanging your hat on, but the truth is, not many people are following our lead to move here. Those in our peer group still choose to live in larger cities in the Bay Area and southern California. That’s where we all need to be ambassadors for Merced, our county, and the Valley. The question and the challenge to this community is this: how do we make it a place where young people can stay after college and not leave to build their career? How can you as an individual, business leader, or community leader make this place the best place to start a family, career, or home?
My husband and I have been fortunate enough to keep our San Francisco jobs while living in Merced, but that is not a reality for everyone until jobs become more remote-based. Therefore, we need big business and more opportunities in town to attract talent from other California cities. It’s not an option if we want to compete with the ever-growing towns that surround our county. Big businesses bring many benefits, but this home of ours is also a good place to build your own opportunity. It’s evident in the many events and small businesses that are popping up, and those individuals that start their own opportunity can positively impact our community in a tremendous way. We must do all that we can to highlight what’s great about our community and attract business and people to come our way, because simply put, it really is a county on the rise.