Surely every local economy reflects a unique mix of businesses and livelihoods — but how many can boast a combination as eclectic and surprising as Tehachapi?

Either of its headliners alone would be the envy of just about any modern metropolis: Whole fields of graceful wind turbines turn out green energy. A nearby spaceship development center is responsible for some of the highest-profile advances in space tourism.

And the list goes on.

Manufacturing remains a significant portion of the local economy. More recently, though, the related field of specialty agriculture has attracted growing attention.

In November 2020, the federal government unveiled the Tehachapi Mountains American Viticultural Area designation. A recognition of the high elevation and unique climate that has for years produced award-winning wines, it is one of only 266 such designations in the United States.

Beyond wines, the area’s unique geography and artisanship are responsible for grass-fed beef and prized apples, to say nothing of the local restaurants for which people make long trips from big cities.

Jobs in incarceration have provided the area significant economic stability. The California Correctional Institution opened in 1932 in Cummings Valley, west of Tehachapi. It has long served as one of the area’s most important employers.

People come to Tehachapi for tourism, too. For many, the area is an ideal getaway from Los Angeles, or a perfect stop along Highway 58, with opportunities for wine tastings and unique restaurants and shops.

Perhaps no other single feature draws more observers than the Tehachapi Loop. A feat of transportation, it links the San Joaquin Valley to the west with the Mojave Desert through the Tehachapi Pass. Since the late 1870s, railroad aficionados have come to Tehachapi to see it for themselves.

The area’s geography and topography have combined to make the Tehachapi area an especially attractive place to build wind turbines. Several thousand turbines of various sizes have risen since the 1980s, and now they generate enough power to support half a million people.

While wind farms don’t always lead to long-term employment, in some cases turbine project developers have made Tehachapi their national headquarters for supporting and managing their assets.

Tehachapi is home as well to many of the aerospace workers whose innovations still make history.

Half an hour away is the Mojave Air & Space Port. Spaceflight history has been made there, and Virgin Galactic continues to produce new spaceship designs that the company expects before long will shuttle paying passengers to suborbital space.

Flying captures local imaginations in other ways as well. The Antelope Valley of rocket lore is less than an hour away. Closer to Tehachapi, people drawn to gliders can find a full-service flight school at Skylark North.