Certainly, each local economy reflects a unique mix of businesses and livelihoods – but how many can boast of a combination as eclectic and surprising as Tehachapi?
Either of its headliners would be the envy of almost any modern metropolis: Whole fields of graceful wind turbines produce green energy. A nearby spacecraft development center is responsible for some of the most publicized advances in space tourism.
And the list continues.
Manufacturing remains an important part of the local economy. More recently, however, the related field of specialized agriculture has attracted increasing attention.
In November 2020, the federal government unveiled the U.S. Vineyard Area designation of the Tehachapi Mountains. A recognition of the high altitude and unique climate that has produced award-winning wines for years, it is one of 266 such appellations in the United States.
Beyond the wines, the region’s unique geography and craftsmanship are responsible for the grass-fed beef and prized apples, not to mention the local restaurants that people make long journeys for from the big cities.
Prison jobs have provided the region with significant economic stability. The California Correctional Facility opened in 1932 in Cummings Valley, west of Tehachapi. It has long been one of the largest employers in the region.
People also come to Tehachapi for tourism. For many, the area is an ideal getaway from Los Angeles, or a perfect stopover along Highway 58, with wine tasting opportunities and unique restaurants and shops.
Perhaps no other feature attracts more observers than the Tehachapi Loop. A transportation feat, it connects the San Joaquin Valley to the west with the Mojave Desert through the Tehachapi Pass. Since the late 1870s, railroad enthusiasts have come to Tehachapi to see it for themselves.
The region’s geography and topography have combined to make the Tehachapi region a particularly attractive location for the construction of wind turbines. Several thousand turbines of various sizes have emerged since the 1980s and now generate enough energy to support half a million people.
Although wind farms do not always lead to long-term jobs, in some cases wind project developers have made Tehachapi their national headquarters to support and manage their assets.
Tehachapi is also home to many aerospace workers whose innovations are still making history.
Half an hour away is the Mojave Air and Space Port. Spaceflight history was made here, and Virgin Galactic continues to produce new spacecraft designs that the company says will soon be able to carry paying passengers to suborbital space.
The flight also captures the local imagination in other ways. The Antelope Valley of Rocket lore is less than an hour away. Closer to Tehachapi, those drawn to gliders can find a full-service flight school at Skylark North.