🇺🇸 El Centro is a city and county seat of Imperial County, California, United States. El Centro is the largest city in the Imperial Valley, the east anchor of the Southern California Border Region, and the core urban area and principal city of the El Centro metropolitan area which encompasses all of Imperial County. El Centro is also the largest American city to lie entirely below sea level (−42 feet or −13 meters). The city, located in south-eastern California, is 113 miles (182 km) from San Diego and less than 20 miles (32 km) from the Mexican city of 🇲🇽 Mexicali. The modern city is home to retail, transportation, wholesale, and agricultural industries. There are also two international border crossings nearby for commercial and non-commercial vehicles.
Economy As of 2009 the employment of El Centro residents is dominated by the local government, California state government, and federal government. Two nearby prisons (Centinela and Calipatria) and a U.S. Border Patrol station provide employment. The El Centro area has many farming plots, where carrots, lettuce, and other crops are produced, and therefore the El Centro economy is subject to seasonal variations like other farming areas. Between November and March in winter periods, El Centro-area farmers harvest lettuce for $8–10 per hour. During March the harvest moves to the north and is no longer in El Centro; in previous eras farmers migrated, while in the first decade of the 21st century many collect unemployment benefits during the summer.
El Centro is surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland that has transformed the desert into one of the most productive farming regions in California with an annual crop production of over $1 billion. Agriculture is the largest industry in Imperial County and accounts for 48% of all employment. Being the commercial centre of Imperial County, fifty percent of the jobs in the El Centro come from the service and retail sector.
A recent growth in the interest of Imperial County as a filming location, has spurred growth in servicing this industry. Due to its desert environment and proximity to Los Angeles, California, movies are sometimes filmed in the sand dunes outside the agricultural portions of the Imperial County. These have included Return of the Jedi, Stargate, The Scorpion King, and Into the Wild. Additionally, portions of the 2005 film Jarhead were filmed here because of its similarity to the desert terrain of Iraq.
El Centro has a population of over 44,079 people. El Centro also forms the centre of the wider El Centro metropolitan area which has a population of over 174,528 people.