I'll confess that as of a year ago, I had not given much thought to Fresno. When I was growing up in Southern California, I was aware mainly of L.A., San Francisco, Berkeley, and Newport Beach. In the reporting years since then most of my attention was on the stretch of California from San Jose all the way northward to the Embarcadero. I was aware of the Central Valley mainly as the place where the food came from, and as the setting for American Graffiti.
As my wife Deb and I have chronicled over the past few weeks, after three visits, Fresno has become another of our new Favorite Cities—along with Greenville, Sioux Falls, Allentown, Duluth, and on down the list. Some of the reasons include innovative public schools, an arts scene with ambitions to become California's next bohemia, tech startups that take advantage of the city's location in the middle of one of the world's major agricultural zones, and an ambitious plan to remake what is now a very tattered downtown.
Herewith three more notes:
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1) Tech Training as a Crucial Part of Re-Knitting the American Fabric. Everyone knows that research universities are crucial for creating valuable new industries, and everyone is right.
But I've come to think that community colleges, trade schools, and what used to be dismissively called "vocational education" are just about as important and deserve much more mind-share and support than they currently get. These are the main ways that people who are not going to be biomedical researchers, or federal judges, or corporate bigshots can still earn decent livings, through the modern counterparts to the lost, 1950s-era paradise of large-scale, high-wage factory jobs.