Jobs in Salinas, California, United States
Location and Population
Salinas is located at the lower end of the Salinas Valley, which runs southeast to northwest until it reaches the Pacific Ocean at Monterey Bay. It is the largest city and county seat of Monterey County. The population in 2016 was estimated at around 157,000, of which about 37 percent foreign-born. The ethnic make-up is Hispanic (77%), Non-Hispanic White (14.5%) and Non-Hispanic Asian (5.5%). The median household income is slightly below the national figure but the cost of living is somewhat higher. Unemployment is not too high, but the share living in poverty is very high, mainly because of low wages paid to agricultural workers in the Valley.
Salinas was established in 1854 at the junction of two stage-coach routes. Beginning in the 1870s Chinese labor reclaimed swampland for growing wheat. In the 1890s irrigated sugar beets became profitable, using Japanese workers. The city incorporated in 1919 and producers switched to lettuce and other horticultural crops using Filipino field workers and refrigerated railroad cars for shipping. During WWII, Mexicans came in legally to compensate for labor shortages created by the war effort. Hispanics, both legal and illegal, have worked the Salinas fields ever since.
The Salinas Valley is still an agricultural region and four of the city’s major employers are agribusiness companies. Two hospitals and the county offices are also important economically. To promote tourism, a group of local entrepreneurs invested in revitalization of downtown Salinas, offered tours of vegetable fields, advertised the Valley’s vineyards, and created a mini-Steinbeck industry. Although tourism has grown, its contribution is still modest. Some people live in Salinas because it is affordable and pleasant, and commute to Monterey for work.
The Valley is framed by coastal mountain ranges on both sides. They create a lovely setting for the city, which has a modern downtown, a cool dry climate, clean air and plenty to do for recreation and entertainment. The rural neighborhood of Alisal was absorbed by Salinas in 1963, becoming today’s poor, working class Hispanic neighborhoods of Central and East Salinas. Although gangs and violent crime are omnipresent, many residents hold steady jobs and the tax dollars paid by small shops and businesses there are a top contributor to Salinas’ budget. As second and third-generation Hispanics acquired an education and took higher-paying jobs, they gradually moved into the more affluent Salinas neighborhoods (Creekbridge, Laurelwood, South Salinas). Now there is a degree of integration that makes it possible to think about development for the city as a whole.
What Makes Salinas Special
ARTS AND CULTURE
Salinas Valley Art Gallery: A small space in Old Town showing work of a local artists’ coop.
SHOPPING AND FOOD
The Steinbeck House: Elegant lunches in the restored home of John Steinbeck.
Old Town: A mix of new and restored buildings, vintage shops, cinema, and foodie paradise.
River Road Wine Trail: Wineries and tasting rooms in the Salinas Valley.
National Steinbeck Center. A unique museum which opened in 1998, tracing the life of John Steinbeck, the context for each of his books, and the agricultural history of Salinas, now a Cal State Monterey Bay educational center which runs the annual Steinbeck Festival and promotes cultural and racial awareness through reading, film and young authors programs.
SPORTS AND RECREATION
Salinas Sports Complex: Renovated rodeo grounds, used year-round as a live performance and special events venue, as well as for the annual Salinas Rodeo, The complex also includes baseball and softball fields, an aquatic center and stables for horse owners. OUT OF DOORS
Badger Hills Trailhead: The entry point for several trails leading into the Badger Hills. The trails pass through a barren and desolate landscape, but the constantly changing colors on the hills and the views from the top keep aficionados coming back.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca: An iconic paved-road racing track built with private funds in 1957 and managed as a Monterey County Park since 1974. It is now used for training drivers when there are no races or other special events. Visitors can also camp there and spend time viewing the grounds and track.
Monterey Zoo: A sanctuary for retired TV/movie animals, where staff know and care for each animal individually, and visitors get to see them close up.
Tatum Park: An outdoor play space, privately- funded and designed and built by volunteers for special needs children, with great appeal for the entire community.
Toro County Park: 20 miles of trails for riding, mountain biking and hiking, all leading to scenic views of the Valley and Monterey Bay, with sport fields and play and picnic areas.
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