Recently I spent some time in Merced, California; a city with a population of 80,000 that most Californians don’t know exists. Merced was at the heart of the housing bubble. A new UC opened up while home prices were inflated, and dozens of developers created brand new mansions expecting an influx of new homeowners only to watch the market completely bottom out.
The city is now struggling. Many of the residents are unemployed and those that are employed are taking lower salaries. No one has any desire to move to the area and the city’s motto has become “Gateway to Yosemite” because the only tourism it receives is from those that need a place to eat on the way to one of the greatest natural wonders in California.
Mostly for funsies, I attended a reelection campaign for a local politician. He wanted to reassure the city of Merced that he’s doing what it takes to create jobs in the area. His solutions:
- Fight for agriculture laws.
That’s pretty much it. Now, to be fair, agriculture is an important industry to the city of Merced, but Merced is a real city, with real things to do, and a potential for a great deal of growth. This struck me as an oddly passive way of trying to improve life in this small city.
I realized that the city of Merced would benefit from investing in online marketing and taking an active stance to improve tourism in the area and becoming a hub for new business. Rather than hope that this struggling economy in a city no one has heard about will magically grow new jobs because of friendlier agriculture laws, the city could market itself as a low cost place to start businesses, retire, work freelance, etc.
Hoping that things turn around for the city is a passive approach to a very active world. The Internet is full of opportunities, and if Merced was willing to take the initiative to seek out new businesses and interesting tourism, they would quickly find their odds of becoming a larger and more profitable city growing with each passing day.