Jobs in Merced, California, United States
Location and Population. Merced is a city in Merced County in the San Joaquin Valley with an estimated 2016 population of 82,594, of which 20 percent foreign-born. It is predominantly Hispanic (53%). Non-Hispanic Whites (29%) and Non-Hispanic Asians (10%) also account for sizable shares. Median household income is just half the statewide figure and cost of living is low. Unemployment, though declining, is still quite high, and poverty is very high, increasing from around a quarter to over a third of the population between 2008 and 2015.
Origins. The San Joaquin Valley is a sediment-filled river basin, bounded by the Coastal Ranges and the Sierra Nevadas. Its rich soil is ideal for agriculture, but the landscape is harsh, hot and dry. Early settlers practiced rainfed farming, growing wheat, barley, and grapes. Merced was founded in 1872 and named the country seat. It incorporated in 1889, becoming an agricultural transport hub. Beginning in the 1930s, irrigation canals were dug and pumps installed. Farmers introduced dairy and a variety of horticultural crops, becoming California’s main producer of sweet potatoes. In 1941 the Army started training pilots at a nearby facility which became Castle Air Force Base in 1946. Until its closure in 1995, the base was used by the 93rd Bombardment Wing (one of Strategic Air Command’s first ten bomb groups), for large air tanker training and some tactical bombardment and aerial refueling missions.
Economy. Although water salinity is an increasing problem, Merced is still an agricultural county. Of 22 large employers in the county in 2014, ten were agribusinesses. Agrotourism and tours to Yosemite that trace the original route along Highway 140 running into the Valley through Merced River Canyon are growing economic activities. Since the base closed, health care has provided new jobs and Merced has also begun to attract some light industry. However, next to county government, the city’s largest employer, higher education has become the county’s most important economic sector. Thanks to an aggressive effort to promote the city’s bid, in 1995 Merced was selected as the home of the next University of California campus. UC Merced opened in late 2005 in an area northeast of the city limits near Lake Yosemite, bringing with it an influx of students, faculty and staff which invigorated the retail sector.
Character. When Castle Air Force Base base closed in 1995, the city lost the focal point for its identity. To create a new focal point, it brought a UC campus to Merced, but as it turned out, the city and the new campus are isolated from each other. Now the city is divided between its prosperous middle-class neighborhoods, such as the areas near Lake Yosemite, Bear Creek, East 21st Street, and rural parts of Merced, and a growing zone of impoverished neighborhoods that are crime and gang-ridden, which must be passed to reach the culturally interesting downtown.
What Makes Merced Special
ARTS AND CULTURE
Castle Science and Technology Center: Hands-on exhibits teaching scientific principles.
Merced Shakespeare Fest: Productions of two Shakespeare plays a year since 2002.
Merced Symphony Orchestra: Classical music performances at Merced Theater since 1957.
Merced Theater: Spanish colonial structure, part of Golden State Theater Circuit since 1931.
Multicultural Arts Center: Theater, galleries, visual and performing arts studios – since 1996.
Playhouse Merced: A cultural fixture and venue for a variety of theatrical events.
SHOPPING AND FOOD
Bear Creek Galleria: Unique shops and eateries near downtown.
Downtown Merced: Early architecture, quaint shops, cultural activities.
McNamara Plaza: Fashion, books and dining in the heart of downtown.
Merced Fruit Barn: A deli stop on the road to Yosemite selling locally-dried fruit and nuts.
Castle Air Museum: 46 vintage planes from WWII to the present.
Merced Agricultural Museum: Early farming equipment, home appliances, blacksmith shop.
Merced Courthouse Museum: Original courthouse building with rotating historical exhibits.
SPORTS, RECREATION, OUT-OF-DOORS
Applegate Park: Native wild animals, kiddy park, picnic areas, rose garden, amphitheater.
Community parks: Outdoor spaces with family-oriented recreational facilities.
Golf, boating and fishing: Public, private and resort golf courses and public lakes.
Grassland wetlands: Preservation area containing one-third of California’s remaining Central Valley wetlands, both permanent and seasonal, as well as riparian corridors and native grassland, with hiking trails and many good spots for birdwatching.
Merced City Bike Paths: Extensive bikeway system covering the entire city.
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