A new survey of civic economic prowess reflects so badly on California's Central Valley that Bakersfield's ranking of 94th among the nation's 100 largest metros actually stacks up pretty well alongside our neighbors.

Sacramento is ranked 93rd, followed by Fresno (98th), Modesto (99th) and Stockton (100th). But the most troubling part of the report, conducted by MarketWatch Inc., may be the finding that geographic location relative to other major markets is a big factor.

Sacramento scores poorly, according to the analysts, because large, desirable firms typically elect to locate in the nearby Bay Area if they come to Northern California at all. And Fresno, according to MarketWatch, is saddled with its midvalley location in an "isolated area." (Stockton's bankruptcy and Modesto's valley-high unemployment rate hurt those cities.)

How does a city combat the negatives associated with its place on the map? It doesn't. Civic leaders must focus on what they can change, starting with improving local educational opportunities for homegrown talent. But it doesn't hurt to play up the fact that, unlike other valley cities, Bakersfield is a mere 90 minutes from downtown Los Angeles.