Hear that? It's the sound of sales tax revenue hitting the county of Kern's coffers -- and not the city of Bakersfield's.

The Gap's departure last month from Valley Plaza, after 20 years there, was already cause for concern. But now, with the company having decided to move to the soon-to-open Tejon outlets near the Grapevine in unincorporated Kern County, some might wonder if it's evidence of a possible business exodus.

Maybe, to some small degree, it is. And that's a concern. At a time when city officials already are trimming the municipal budget because of unexpectedly low sales tax revenues, the city should be doing everything in its power to keep businesses in town and help ensure tax revenue consistency. We're talking about funding many public services, after all, from road maintenance to police protection.

But this new development involving The Gap is simply evidence of something every Bakersfield resident has long taken for granted: As far and away the biggest city for 75 miles in any direction, Bakersfield has long enjoyed a certain exclusivity when it comes to retail business. Where else in this part of the state would a company like The Gap set up shop?

Now, there's an alternative.

And that makes Bakersfield a little bit more like almost every other city of 300,000-plus: There's another place somewhere in the region that can support desireable national outlets and that covets that tax revenue, too. These jurisdictions, be they cities or counties, represent competition. It's a fact of life for most U.S. cities of consequence; it will soon be so here too. We'd better get used to it.