Don’t Count Stockton Out

Now is the time to stop by

Back Commentary Aug 4, 2016 By Micah Runner

It was only a little over one year ago that the bankruptcy plan for the City of Stockton was finalized and the City officially exited bankruptcy. While bankruptcy was a rough patch for Stockton, it is important to recognize what opportunities can grow from a city that has seen more than its fair share of challenges. Many saw that Stockton was in the midst of publicly difficult times and struggling with elevated crime issues, but didn’t realize that the private market was continuing to invest in Stockton. Companies were still locating their businesses here, developers were still building and families were still choosing to make Stockton their home.

As director of economic development in Stockton, I was reminded of what a great opportunity it is to be part of the rebirth of a city when I attended a federally-sponsored, peer-networking conference through the White House’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities effort. Struggling cities from all over the country gathered in Miami for three days in June 2015 to collaborate on ideas. Yes, all the cities you are thinking of were there: Flint, Compton, North Las Vegas, Trenton, Detroit, Richmond and many more. Each of these cities had, at some point or another, taken their turn on the Forbes list of most miserable cities in which to live.

Related: Key to the City 

As we sat around the table and I heard the passionate, innovative ideas to restore the uniqueness, character and promise to our cities, it became clear to me that if you ever wanted to invest in any of these cities, now is definitely the time. It’s Investment 101: You don’t generally buy a stock when the company is doing great, at the top of their game. You buy when it’s low. You find companies that are new or had a rough patch but have a fresh, committed leadership team with a demonstrated ability to perform and make the company profitable again. I see real momentum in Stockton, so here are some insider trading tips for you.

Downtown is ready to explode in creativity. Downtown Stockton has the staples every successful city hopes for: Stockton Arena, where the Heat (a minor league ice hockey team) play; Banner Island Ballpark, where the Ports play (a minor league affiliate of the Oakland A’s); the Stockton Marina and thousands of everyday office users. Downtown also has two schools. One of those, Collegiate, is a public charter school that was recently ranked the second best school in California by U.S. News. Additionally, the “creative class” has made downtown their playground. Murals continue to go up in unexpected places. Entrepreneurs are setting up shop at coworking hubs like Huddle and Café Coop. Pop-up retail is turning into brick-and-mortar locations through Stockmarket events. Now is the time to be part of a downtown renaissance.

The Port of Stockton is breaking records. Through the lean years, the Port of Stockton was a shining star. The Port of Stockton owns and operates a diversified and major transportation center that encompasses a 2,000-acre operating area. Last year, 245 vessels and 3.87 million tons of cargo made their way through the port. Watching the big cargo ships rolling through the Delta by the clubhouse of Stockton Golf and Country Club is something that never gets old. The port, railroads and major freeways will continue to bring investment into Stockton. One recent example of a retailer who understands this is the online women’s clothing shop Le Tote (the Netflix of clothes, as I have heard it described), which a few months ago opened a new major facility in Stockton, because of the strength of the location.

Related: Waterfront Fridays Launches in Downtown Stockton

University Park is becoming an education and medical nucleus. This 102-acre park-like environment is home to Stanislaus State’s Stockton Center and the Health Careers Academy. With Dameron Hospital and Dignity Health’s St Joseph’s Medical Center right next door, University Park is positioned to see substantial growth in the quickly expanding health care market.

University of the Pacific is located in the middle of Stockton. This might surprise a few of you to learn, but UOP is in the heart of the city. The university’s 7,000-plus students are getting an outstanding education and are involved in many areas of the community. UOP is a great partner in the continuing evolution of the City of Stockton. You can find many students regularly wandering down Pacific Avenue to the Miracle Mile District, an area adjacent to the university that has quickly become the place for food and local retailers.

When I look at Stockton, I see a city bustling with the promise of a strong economy and business development. To some, this creates concerns for the gentrification of our neighborhoods and the downtown community. While I believe this concern is still far off, part of what makes Stockton great is its diversity and dynamic mix of people and perspectives.

There are more than just financial rewards in being part of rejuvenating a city. Sometimes when we think about return on investment, it only involves money — or at least that is the first thing that comes to mind. When you get to be part of something bigger and benefit the community as a whole, the payback is even better that expected.

I know you are saying to yourself, “Of course you are going to have good things to say, your job is to sell the City of Stockton,” and you would be right. All I can say is come check it out for yourself. I would be happy to introduce you to Stockton if you haven’t been here before or, if you haven’t visited in awhile, reintroduce you to my city.


Visitor (not verified)August 4, 2016 - 9:49pm

Steer clear of Stockton. This is a city run by thieves and populated by gangsters. The tired huddled masses of illiterate, uneducated, and unemployed are growing by the day. Jobs don't exist. Development is forbidden under draconian city ordinances, which is why all the development is as far from city center as possible, behind as many gates as possible. Meanwhile housing and rent costs are approaching bay area levels, even in the worst neighborhoods because Oakland's poorest are fleeing the bay area to live here.

The government is run by criminals who line their pockets. I'd say this any day, today it just happens the mayor was literally in jail.

There is money being made here, by people who wouldn't be caught dead within city limits.

I am a third generation Stocktonian. I have lived here most of my life, but I have lived in other cities, states, and countries. My bachelor's degree and veteran status has gotten me nothing in Stockton. I've literally never done better than part time minimum wage in the city. Only when I work elsewhere can I make a living. I currently work in San Francisco, making $1,000 a week. I can't get $1,000 a month within city limits.

If my family weren't here, I'd be gone. All my successful friends and classmates are gone. It's depressing. I have no ill wishes for this city, but it has nothing to offer me, or anyone who just wants to work hard, make an honest living.

You want the truth of Stockton? Drive down Main Street. Block after block in every direction, abandoned businesses and housing. This city crushes hope and opportunity. It's wealthy residents treat it as a bedroom community and live and spend elsewhere, as does the richly paid government employees.

Susan Cruz (not verified)August 9, 2016 - 7:02pm

Good comes out of struggle and Stockton has struggled. That is why they are poised to make changes for the better!
I have lived in Stockton for 28 years and raised my children here. Stockton has a lot to offer and I am thrilled to see the improvements happening all over the city - the port, University Park, downtown as Micah points out. I am proud to be a Stocktonian and I don't plan to leave anytime soon.
There is so much to offer - a strong music and arts community including our symphony which is celebrating 90 consecutive years in existence! Only two other cities in California can say that (San Francisco & Los Angeles!) We have the Brubeck Festival celebrating the life and music of a world renown musical celebrity. We have diverse artists of all ages and styles all over our city.
The University of Pacific has always been a place of learning and beauty and it is affecting change in the education of our children all over the city through its "Beyond Our Gates" program. And speaking of education, our city has the privilege of two International Baccalaureate high schools and many award willing charter schools.
We have a huge community of nonprofit organizations which are working to make a difference in the community everyday.
I believe that Stockton is on the verge of a Renaissance and I am pleased to live where people are willing to use their faith, skills and love to make a positive difference!

Jane Butterfield (not verified)August 17, 2016 - 3:37pm

Thank you for your opinion piece Micah. It captures what Stockton is all about. I agree wholeheartedly with Susan Cruz' comments regarding the many aspects that make Stockton special. I've lived here all my life (long time) and care deeply about my community. We've survived a very challenging time and have emerged stronger. I too agree that we are in the midst of a revival, due in large part to the hard work of many dedicated individuals and organizations that simply refuse to accept the doom and gloom picture that the media so often reports. Looking forward to our future.....

Visitor (not verified)August 22, 2016 - 12:15pm

The negative comments above are defeatist.
Stocktonhas its fair share of problems, as does any other large city. We also have amazing talent.
Local musicians, artists, retailers, and a plethora of delicious restaurants from many different cultures are DOING what the commenter above can't- and can't even see. The creative class is alive and well and GROWING in Stockton. Don't ride the coattails of other 'better' cities. Come here, STAY here and experience for yourself- better yet- DO SOMETHING yourself - and see be a part of the difference. Another option, if ya can't get on board, get out.
LEAD, follow, or get out of the way.
PS: I easily make $1000 or more a month in my own business. It can and IS being done.. With enough hard work and persistence.

S. Lipiec-Qualls (not verified)August 22, 2016 - 12:19pm

Bashing all the good that has been happening in Stockton and discarding all progress that has been made in the last few years, is not only narrow-minded but represents exactly the kind of attitude that has made it so difficult for Stockton to overcome the obstacles in our way. I am not Stockton-born and raised. I came to this city 20 years ago and made it my city. I cheer all the good people who are making great strides to bring back pride to this community. Much has been done and even more great things are coming soon! We have much to be proud of: from vibrant campuses of the Pacific and Delta College, through the profitable business of the Port of Stockton, to the dynamic historic Downtown Stockton. To the contrary of what "Visitor" is stating, cost of living in Stockton is MUCH below Bay Area rates (ask our new Bay Area transplants), long-vacant downtown buildings are renovated and awaiting new tenants, new entrepreneurs are opening their offices and retail in downtown. Come find out for yourself!

Mike Hakeem (not verified)August 22, 2016 - 3:38pm

Stockton has emerged from it's Bankruptcy with a new spirit and a new attitude in favor of attracting new business's and employment as evidenced by the recently approved downtown projects. Every city has it's share of challenges and Stockton is no different. However, Stockton has a new and positive attitude to respond pro-actively regarding job retention and new development and new growth in all areas of our community. Stay tuned to Stockton, the best is yet to come.

Matt Beckwith (not verified)August 22, 2016 - 8:58pm

Mr. Runner, thank you for writing such a wonderful piece, and thank you for what you're doing to spur economic development in our city.

Stockton is more than our headlines. It is more than the multitude of lists our city name seems to be a top. While it is true we have struggled in the face of poor decisions by city leaders and crippling macro economic forces, we have not given up. There is a tail-wind in our city right now unlike any I have experienced in my 30+ years of living here.

It is an exciting time to be in Stockton. We are not a perfect city, but we are a city with spirit and soul. I have lived elsewhere in the state and in the country and chose to settle down here, to raise a family here.

My truth about Stockton? Go to Victory Park on a Saturday morning, go to Janet Leigh Plaza on a Friday night, walk down the Miracle Mile on a Friday or Saturday night (or any other night of the week for that matter) and just try and "do it all".

For all the great restaurants and parks and things to do, what really makes Stockton great are the people. And right now, people are coming out of the woodwork eager to make the city a better place. Artists, musicians, chefs, business owners... they believe in Stockton and we are starting to see the fruits of their labor.

For as long as Stockton has had a bad reputation, there have people that believe it is a beautiful place. I chose to see Stockton for its beauty, for its potential, for its people, and I'm happy to work alongside those people that are willing to roll up their sleeves and help make Stockton what it is today.

An undeniable part of what makes Stockton so wonderful is our diversity. Even diversity of opinion about Stockton is welcome. In all of my years I have found that, typically, the opinion of the naysayers comes from a place of love for our city.

Ed Stockton (not verified)August 31, 2016 - 12:41pm

After growing up in Orinda, a suburb of the Bay Area, then living and going to college in San Francisco and a few years of relaxing, sailing and living in Sausalito I married my soul mate Andrea, had our first child Nadia and began to raise a family. For a short while we lived in Pleasant Hill and then in the foot hills in Weimar. It is safe to say that my living experience in northern California has been diverse from the big city to the foot hills.
Work and supporting my family took me to the city of Stockton in September of 1987. It has been 30 years of raising a family in Stockton. Andrea and I have three children and five grandchildren. I have met so many wonderful people from the South, East, West, North and Central Stockton and we have shared our lives, our trials and tribulations, but most of all we have shared a community of people who love a relatively large city and its amenities while having a small town flair. I could not have imagined a better place to raise my family. No one has defined the living experience in Stockton as well as my friend Greg Basso, .
The City of Stockton is complex, not because of the mechanics of running a city, it is complex because we as a community are changing. With change comes frustration and the requirement to do something we haven't done before. It is with change that we grow.
Changes to the downtown. The changes to the downtown is a phenomena being seen around the world as young people shift from old school of thought of buying a home in the suburbs to now being in the social mix of an inner city. Zac Cort saw this opportunity and is capitalizing on the opportunity with his Ten Space development. Tim Egkan passion along with others in Zac's vision and plan was the spark that that started the engine of change for the people who want to be in the downtown of Stockton. The Arena, the Ball Park and the Hotel downtown along with the Cinema set the stage.
The future of Stockton is yet to be seen. It is my belief that we will continue to get better, the younger generation will force change as they take ahold of the reins of the city. The naysayers and complainers without merit will always be amongst us and always try to make us feel as miserable as they do. I believe that positive breeds positive and negative breeds negative. I would like to leave the readers of my message one positive thought…….embrace the change!

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