Having recently proclaimed Soledad the “Gateway to the Pinnacles,” city leaders rolled out a marketing blitz to attract more visitors, and dollars, in the Salinas Valley city better known for its prison and backdrop in John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men."
As one of his first orders of business, Mayor Fred Ledesma looked north - to Silicon Valley tech titans - to help put the town of 26,000 - literally - on the map.
He formally asked Google's Larry Page and Apple's Tim Cook to put the new national park route on their software GPS systems. To read the letters, click here. (PDF)
The request is so new, though, that the mayor hasn't yet heard back on an answer.
Soledad is just ten miles from the western entrance to Pinnacles National Park, which was recently designated as a national park. But for those searching online for directions, city leaders point out that tourists are unlikely to ever drive know about the park’s western entrance, nor its proximity to the park’s most iconic geological features. (Check out the city's Facebook photo page to see some of these features.
Neither Google nor Apple makes the western entrance an option to travelers heading from the San Francisco Bay Area, directing map users east along Highway 25 through Hollister rather than advising them to continue on south on US 101 through the picturesque Salinas Valley.
That means that these newcomers and travelers are far less likely to discover and patronize one Soledad’s many locally owned businesses, according to Rolando Bonilla, a hired public relations consultant for Soledad.
He told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday that his firm, Ford & Bonilla of San Jose, was paid $15,000 to conduct the marketing campaign over three months.
To correct the omission, Ledesma has written open letters to the CEOs of both Google and Apple asking that they add the western entrance as an optional destination for maps users requesting directions to Pinnacles National Park. Over the next few weeks, Ledesma will be reaching out to other app makers asking that they too help put Soledad on their maps.
“This is about creating a level playing field where Soledad’s businesses can compete with those in other regional cities, on equal footing,” Ledesma said in a statement. “Our city and our residents deserve that fair chance.”
Soledad is located in the center of the Salinas Valley, near U.S. Highway 101 between Santa Lucia Mountains to the west and the Gabilan Mountains to the east. Soledad is home to much agriculture, with fields of lettuce, broccoli and asparagus, as well as some of the finest wine grapes in the state. It is also home to Soledad State Prison. The area called "the Pinnacles" was recently designated as a national park.
Visitors can explore nearby Pinnacles National Park, with its world-class hiking and rock-climbing, or sample our burgeoning local wine industry. For more information, visit www.CityofSoledad.com.