Thousands of Tuolumne and Calaveras county residents commute across county lines for work, according to data recently published by the U.S. Census Bureau.
About 15 percent of employed Tuolumne County residents, and nearly half of working Calaveras County residents, commute to another county for work, the data showed.
Most of Tuolumne County’s 3,090 commuters travel to Stanislaus County, followed by Calaveras and San Joaquin counties.
Roughly 8,862 Calaveras County residents commute for work, with the majority traveling to San Joaquin County. Amador and Tuolumne counties trailed the Central Valley county.
“If there’s not a lot of job opportunities locally … people start commuting primarily to large cities around us,” said Larry Cope, director of the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority.
According to the American Community Survey, more than a fourth of all employed United States citizens commute across county lines for jobs — a 0.7 percent increase from 2000.
“I think it was something that picked up when the economy turned down,” Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce President George Segarini said.
Cope said there are several factors people consider when deciding whether to commute, such as income, price of gas, cost of living and personal sacrifices.
“I’m sure those decisions are made every day here,” he said. “Commuting takes time away from your family and friends.”
He also said some Tuolumne County residents commute because they want to work in industries that are more prominent in the Central Valley.
Sonora resident John O’Brien commutes to Stockton — 124 miles round-trip — where he manages an agricultural tractor company.
O’Brien initially traveled to Merced, but the company purchased a facility in Stockton about a year ago.
He has managed the company for 26 years and lived in Sonora for 11 of them. More than a decade later, he still doesn’t mind the trip.
He said he commutes because he would rather raise his family in Sonora than the Central Valley.
“It’s worth it to me,” he said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
For residents who do mind commuting to other counties, the solution is job creation, Segarini said.
He and Cope said they hope to create more jobs by helping existing local businesses flourish and attracting new businesses to the area.
Cope said Tuolumne County is an attractive place to headquarter a business because it is close to major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and Los Angeles and tourist destinations like Yosemite National Park.
“I believe we have stuff that will bring people here,” Cope said.
Segarini said another attractive quality is that the county is community-minded.
“Tuolumne County continues to be a good place to do business,” he said. “More people are looking at it in that light … we just need to continue that positive attitude.”