We’re Number 1! We’re Number 1!

By Mark Blackney

Oops, sorry. I’ll put the foam finger down but darn it feels to be able to brag a little. In case you haven’t heard, the city of Clovis was chosen as the Number 1 city in California to raise a young family. The decision was made by the financial website NerdWallet that analyzes all sorts of economic data.

Essentially the questions focused on where young families can get the best education and the most bang for the buck. Does the city have good schools? Can you afford to live there? Is the city growing and prospering? Here they considered the average household income and income growth over the last decade.

Clovis had an overall score of 66.76 while second place city, Folsom, scored 58.47. That’s a huge gap. Advantages included over 285 acres of parks and trails, our schools are rated 8 out of 10 by GreatSchools with an overall graduation rate of 92.6%, far above the statewide average of 78.5%.

Clovis has enjoyed an income growth rate of 54.5% over the past decade with the current median income of $65,300. Our median home price of $284,000 is considered more easily affordable.

To those of us who have raised our own families here and are working to enhance the Clovis way of life, this standing doesn’t come as a surprise. We know what a special place Clovis is especially when considering its location in the Central Valley. It’s just nice to have our opinions validated by an outside firm.

What’s the secret of our success?

Incorporated in 1912, Clovis has always been a close knit, proud community filled with remarkable people. However, I consider that one individual, Floyd “Doc” Buchanan, has impacted our city the most. He was the first superintendent of the newly formed Clovis Unified School District established in 1959. Doc believed in educating and developing each student’s body, mind and spirit. He set the bar high and over the past 50 years CUSD has risen to the call thanks to its dedicated teachers, administration and involved parents. It is nationally recognized for its excellence and receives numerous awards.

Having a high performing school district defines a town because success breeds success. Since it’s the number one priority to most families they will move to a city that will best educate their children. That was a deciding factor when we moved here in 1989 due to a job transfer. We knew nothing about the Valley and had never even heard of Clovis. A little bit of research and we knew where to buy our house, by Clovis High, and we’ve never regretted it.

These are families that appreciate education and are involved with their children’s lives. They make good, responsible citizens who respect the community values. They elect responsible people to local government posts who have made sound decisions about the city’s future. They also hold jobs and spend their money locally that enhances the economy. Just look at the flurry of new businesses coming to town thanks to the additional shoppers created by the Clovis Crossings Center on Herndon Ave.

Last year I wrote about a book, When the Boomers Bail by Mark Lautman. An economic development expert, he explains that in the future there will be winning cities and losing cities. He forecasts a shortage of highly paid, skilled workers who will be in high demand and courted by cities competing against each other. Some cities will win and some will lose.

Lautman defined the five criteria of a winning city aka: Clovis

A stable and improving ecosystem. Thanks to the foresight of city staff and prudent budgeting Clovis’ infrastructure can handle our projected growth through 2050. We have a fairly new sewage treatment plant, water reclamation system and an upgraded landfill. We have acres of parks and miles of trails as well as a decent bus system.

Second, is a low crime rate. Clovis PD is aggressive in controlling the gang problem including working with apartment managers to make sure they’re not taking up residence here. Citizens can still call for help in their neighborhoods and see a friendly black and white actually show up. We must also credit the police for making concessions during the recession to help maintain their numbers and keep us safe.

Third, a world class education. Four words – Clovis Unified School District.

Fourth is affordable housing. As cited in the Nerdwallet survey, we are considered a very affordable community even though we have the highest prices in the Valley. Again, people are willing to pay a premium to live in a good community.

Fifth, an economy that is growing faster than its population. Based on sales tax receipts and the health of the city budget, we fulfill this requirement. Hundreds of new jobs are coming through a state call center, a distribution plant near Pelco and the expansions in the health sector. Our economic base is growing thanks to “outside income” – people from out of town coming here to spend their money. People from the foothills are coming into Clovis to shop. And, our Chamber events, BIG Hat Days and ClovisFest spin off over $6 million to other businesses from the quarter million people who come to town.

The effect of a skilled workforce, successful schools and the other criteria, is that it attracts more like minded people – a self – fulfilling prophecy. And it’s happening right here. Housing permits in 2013 were triple those in 2012. For the first time in years, CUSD has an increase in the student population and is hiring 125 new teachers. There’s a long list of educators hoping to be a part of a successful district.

So residents of Clovis – be very proud. You live in the best California city to raise a young family. Now I’m going outside to shout from the rooftop –“We’re number 1! We’re number 1!”

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