Santiago City is Cagayan Valley's pioneer city. It ushered more development not only in Isabela but in the whole region. It motivated other towns to grasp for more progress and to uplift the people’s standard of living. The city is highly equipped with facilities in health, education and security, making it a first choice in terms of settlement.
Considered as the Commercial and Industrial Center of Region 2, several business enterprises, banking institutions, educational entities, as well as manufacturing companies are present in the city.
Some of the biggest companies that can be found in the city are Vista Land-Camella Isabela, ABS-CBN, GMA7, San Miguel Corp., Pepsi Cola, Purefoods, Digitel and PLDT. The National Food Authority also maintains its presence in the city, competing with local traders as a strategy to stabilize prices. Different Car companies like Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu, Hyundai, General Motors, other car companies as well as Yamaha and Honda Motors maintain their presence in the city. Kia Motors and Ford Mazda are set to open their branches in this city soon.
Santiago also houses some of the biggest and highly equipped hospitals in the region. The University of La Salette Hospital is said to be the biggest having a capacity of at least 350 bed. De Vera's Medical Center, Callang General Hospital and Cagayan Valley Sanitarium are also equally equipped private hospitals. The Santiago City Emergency Hospital and Flores Hospital are now considered Medical Centers.
Agriculture however is still the main source of livelihood. The main crops are palay, corn, high value fruits and vegetables. The city is where imposing grain stations can be found, buying agricultural crops coming from Ifugao, Kalinga, Quirino, Nueva Viscaya, and parts of Isabela. These crops are later transported either to Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Pangasinan or Batangas. In addition to the city's new product is Muscovado sugar. The city aims not only to sell this product locally but also to export the same. Rice mills are also present.
The City celebrates Pattaradday Festival or dubbed as Araw ng Santiago. Pattaradday is an Ibanag word which means unity. It celebrates the unity of the ethno-linguistic groups that have merged in the city to make it the melting pot of culture of Region II and contributed to the city’s progress and development-unity in action. it is celebrated every May 1- May 6 the founding anniversary of Santiago.
In 2007, The City was given a Presidential Award for the Most Child-Friendly City under the leadership of Mayor Navarro.
Santiago was formely called Carig. It was formerly a barrio of Echague. The towns Cordon, Diffun, Saguday, San Mateo and Ramon were formerly its barrios. The first five barrios after the Cadastral survey in 1927 were Patul, Batal, Nabbuan, Buenavista and Dubinan. The origin of Santiago City can be drawn from the first native settlement discovered by the early Spanish missionaries at the bank of the old Carig River (now Diadi River) from which its original name, Carig, was derived.
Serving as a bridge to the region's provincial network, numerous bus terminals are present in the city. These include, Victory Liner, Nelbusco, Florida, Baliwag Transit, North Star Bus, Dagupan Bus, REM Liner,Auto Bus among others. By air via Cauayan City airport
The Santiago City Integrated Terminal has also been established to cater for public vehicles that operate from nearby provinces and localities to the city.