San Benito County offers many quality-of-life benefits for relocation
San Benito County is on a roll economically and culturally, making it an ideal place to relocate a business and family.
Nothing rings truer these days for this up-and-coming community that boasts an unbeatable combination of great weather, gorgeous mountainous surroundings, a long list of recreational amenities and enticing year-round cultural offerings.
In other words, the quality of life is through the roof these days, which is one reason why the growth in rooftops has been so healthy.
Located a short drive from the Pacific Ocean coast, this gem of a community tucked between Silicon Valley and Monterey boasts some of California’s best wineries, high-end schools, a top-of-the-line hospital system, endless outdoor options and entertaining events throughout the year. On top of all that, the weather is great with an average temperature in the upper 60s and more than 300 days of annual sunshine.
With a fast-growing county population approaching 60,000, up nearly 10 percent from 2010, San Benito County is home to communities like the bustling Hollister (population 36,600 as of the latest census but on the uptick), the historic mission town of San Juan Bautista (population 1,922), the beautiful countryside in Aromas (nearly 3,000 people), the rancher hub of Tres Pinos, the Pinnacles National Park gateway of Paicines and the mercury mining town known as New Idria.
San Benito County’s housing industry, for one, has exploded in the past few years. Much of that development has occurred within county limits, San Juan Bautista and the City of Hollister, where new homes have been built each year since the post-recession comeback. A top city leader, though, believes that leadership in this community has prepared well for the boom.
“Our former leaders did a really good job of preparing us with the proper infrastructure to accommodate the growth,” Hollister City Manager Bill Avera said, referring to fixes on long-existing water and wastewater issues.
From an infrastructure perspective, he said leaders “did a good job of allowing us to be in a position to accommodate this growth” without negative effects on services.
Avera pointed out that two of the fastest-growing sectors overall for the local economy have been construction and automobile sales. That’s good news for local auto retailers like Greenwood Chevrolet and Tiffany Motor Co. As for the automobile side, Avera surmised that people gradually have become more comfortable, financially speaking, in years following the last recession. That has allowed them to buy homes and upgrade their vehicles.
It’s likely that type of outlook that is drawing companies like TJ Maxx, which is planning to open a store in Hollister. It will be part of developing a 100,000-square foot shopping center with other major retailers, Avera confirmed.
Avera and other city leaders have been pro-business in general and particularly in their approach to housing and commercial growth.
“What we’ve done is we’ve encouraged companies to come if they need our help, whether it be fast tracking or getting through the permit-processing part.” Avera said. “We obviously will do that whenever we can.”
An example of such an approach was a city hotel-incentive program, which helped spur construction of the Fairfield Inn & Suites near the Highway 25 gateway. Whenever the city can, council members and other officials support such customized programs for business recruitment, Avera said.
“Certainly, you can tell our council has been pretty proactive in economic development,” he said.
The balance of housing and commercial growth shows the city has been growing in a positive, healthy direction.
“A lot of times you’re not going to get the retailers unless you have the people here that are going to shop at those places,” Avera said.
A 10-minute drive away on Highway 156—one of three major highways connecting the county to other communities—San Juan Bautista has been pro-business as well. Of course, much of the business activity in the historic city’s shopping district is comprised of charming mom-and-pop shops, fine dining establishments and ever-pleasant wine-tasting rooms. The Mission City is located near Highway 101 between the Gabilan Mountains and Flint Hills. One of the oldest towns in California, it is rich with culture and character–such as Old Mission San Juan Bautista and El Teatro Campesino, a well-known Chicano playhouse founded by legendary writer and director Luis Valdez.
Residents in San Juan traditionally rally to preserve the city’s historic character, even if it means debating passionately about local topics. Still, though, there are many new housing developments in various stages of construction, each providing additional options to meet the area’s increasing demand for homes.
Quality of life in San Benito County, though, stretches far beyond living accommodations and culture. The county has excellent schools and healthcare as well.
There are plenty of excellent options for public education in San Benito County, whether it’s traditional schools, academic-focused public institutions such as the Dual Language Academy and Accelerated Achievement Academy in the Hollister School District, a state-of-the-art San Benito High School campus, or the more liberal arts-oriented Anzar High School in San Juan.
Overall, San Benito County has 11,000 students and 11 school districts. Those districts range from very small rural schools serving 5 to 30 students to the 3,000-student San Benito High campus.
Krystal Lomanto, San Benito County superintendent of schools, said local educators work tirelessly to make sure students attain a high-quality education and reach whatever goals they desire after high school.
“San Benito County is a great place that allows parents to be involved in the educational success of their students,” Lomanto says. “We have caring teachers, committed staff and administrators who care about the academic success of their students.”
Classrooms are just the start when it comes to healthy trends. When businesses or families relocate to a county like this one, they’re often putting healthcare access at the top of the priority chain. Fortunately, there are about 100 doctors practicing in San Benito County.
The San Benito Health Foundation offers medical, dental and WIC services for low-income residents at the main location or San Juan Bautista Clinic.
Pinnacle Urgent Care is open Monday-Saturday for residents and visitors’ medical needs.
Local mainstay Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, meanwhile, has four community health clinics, a multispecialty center, an orthopedic specialty center and a primary care center. Hazel Hawkins also offers 24-hour emergency services with an 18-bed Emergency Department and two clinics. The hospital in recent years went through a major, publicly supported renovation to facilities.
“We are fortunate that even though we are a smaller, rural community, we have access to excellent health care in our area,” said Frankie Gallagher, director of marketing for Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. “The hospital, through the generosity of donors and a tax-bond measure, built a new Women’s Center with 13 private birthing suites and technologically advanced diagnostic imaging services for women, and a new ER.”
Gallagher went on: “We have excellent physicians and staff, and the personalized care our patients receive from all of our healthcare providers is a testament to their dedication in serving the community in which they live and work.”