There’s a lot of talk about making Sacramento, the metronome of the Capital Region’s 10-county dectet, a “world-class city.” And, understandably, even more talk about what that exactly means. I don’t think local region builders expect, or even want, Sacramento to join the ranks of big-hitters such as San Francisco, New York or Chicago. Our peers are more like Portland, Nashville or Minneapolis: places known for big-city amenities like great food, nightlife and culture without the congestion and high costs. Local leaders promote these cities as cool places to be to attract talent, usually young talent, relocating to build careers or launch businesses.
I’m one of those transplants. I was raised in a Wisconsin farm community and originally landed in the Capital Region (Davis, to be specific) to help my brother settle at his first job out of college with the UC Davis Genome Center. I planned to stay a few months and then figure out where I was really meant to be … That was six years ago. At some point during year two, I realized I already was where I was meant to be. Wisconsin will always be my first home (note: you think this is a cowtown?) but now I’ve chosen a new home.
I spent the past couple of weeks before writing this talking to a handful of local transplants as well as a handful of people who grew up here — all city and region builders — about their perspectives on the recently and not-so-recently arrived. From my fellow transplants, I wanted to know how they felt upon arrival. From the born-and-bred group, I wanted to know how they saw us. From both, I wanted to know why they stayed.
The primary reason that transplants stay echoes my own: community. That encompasses the vibrant arts and culinary scenes, exciting new developments and the committed activism ensuring the disenfranchised are not forgotten. The sense of community extends past those who grew up here and envelops those who have relocated to be part of what feels like a renaissance. Locals are very giving of their support to an exciting idea and a person who exhibits the drive to make it happen. People here are deeply connected to one another. One transplant put it well: “We talk about six degrees of separation, but in Sacramento it’s more like two.” For such a tightly knit community, the city and the region are very welcoming to newcomers. Having lived in cities ranging in size from Tokyo to Madison, Wis., I can honestly say I’ve never felt as connected as I do here.
And those who grew up here have stayed for similar reasons. Here, your work matters. Your ideas matter. This is a place where you can have an impact on the direction the region is headed. There are a lot of voices to be heard, and while they may not always agree, there is a true sense of working toward a common goal.
One thing I wanted to know from those who had grown up here was if this renaissance I see is real. I lack the perspective only locals have to make that judgment. The overwhelming response was that yes, there is something different in the air. I was told there is now momentum where once there was stagnation, a confidence in evolution instead of a complacency with the status quo. Still, it’s important for transplants to realize that our greatest strength can also be our greatest liability. What we bring to the table is a fresh perspective and a disregard for what, allegedly, cannot be done. On the other hand, it’s important that we embrace not just where the region is now but also where it has been. It’s important to understand the context in which our ideas are being received. We need to be just as willing to learn as we are to create.
A person’s roots are important. They dictate how we see the world and the work we will do. They also dictate where we go, and the home we choose. But the home we choose tells the world who we want to be. And the Capital Region is a phenomenal place to call home.
The change in the air is palpable, but the worry is that we are just becoming a copy of other cities. How do we, as a city, avoid cultural homogenization? Many articles have stated "Sacramento is the next ________." Why can't Sacramento simply be Sacramento? A city without comparison.
I second your statement Christopher. I transplanted to Sacramento from Minneapolis in 2012 and have never lived in a community so adamant on copying others. It's so rampant in the local culture I often have to remind colleagues that we're good enough to create our own a, b, c, or d. I would love to see an authentic Sacramento. We definitely have what it takes.