Wednesday, July 18, 2007
SBIA plans blossoming
By Robert Rogers
The San Bernardino County (CA) Sun
SAN BERNARDINO – A whole lot of paper shuffling and cement pouring is going on. And it portends a heady future for the 2,100 acres formerly known as Norton Air Force Base. “We’re looking at the evolution of a major logistics and industrial park,” said Penny Chua, director of economic development and marketing for the San Bernardino International Airport Authority. That vision is beginning to be matched by concrete growth at the 1,300-acre airport and 2,100-total acre former base. Norton Air Force Base was shuttered more than a decade ago, striking a blow at the region’s and city’s economies.
Ultimately, said Councilman Neil Derry, the regional airport, distribution and industrial centers could generate more economic clout than the Air Force ever did.
“I believe it will more than fill that role,” Derry said. “It’s already playing a role in the rebuilding of San Bernardino and it will continue to do so in partnership with other local projects, from infill housing development to the expansion of Hospitality Lane.”
The SBIA board meets for a regularly scheduled meeting today at Loma Linda City Hall. On the agenda will be a discussion of conceptual plans for the airport’s international services components, Chua said. Also included will be reports on progress in talks with U.S. Customs about streamlining international corporate passenger travel.
Derry said he isn’t bullish on the terminal renovation or passenger air traffic, but is on distribution and industrial potential.
“Over the next 10 years, we’re going to see commercial, distribution and industrial growth expand north and west of the base.”
Mayor Pat Morris, who is big on passenger air travel at SBIA, has said the terminal is key to getting that industry off the ground.
At the same time, completion of the 210 Freeway and widening of the 215 Freeway through San Bernardino – and crucial enhancements to off-ramp capacities – all bode well for the former base’s distribution future.
“The freeway system is that critical link to the people and cargo that need smooth access to the complex,” said Jim Morris, mayor Pat Morris’ son and chief of staff.
Not all of the many landowners at the former base are moving as aggressively as Stater Bros. Markets, which is moving its corporate headquarters from Colton to the former air base.
Jacob Coin, a spokesman for the San Manuel tribe, said it’s an open question what the tribe will do with the roughly 90 acres of land it owns at the former base.
“The tribe is still looking at the highest and best uses for our parcels,” Coin said. “We are very much in transition, and in discussions with other parties interested in the airport.”
Chua said that where building has occurred, business is booming.
“Every hangar on the property is fully leased for the first time in over 10 years,” Chua said.
Chua said the airport authority was making progress toward all growth goals, particularly in building partnerships with international business.
Stater Bros. CEO Jack Brown, whose homegrown business should be vested in 200 acres of the SBIA site by mid-2008, said the base, like him, is coming full circle.
“As a native son of San Bernardino, it makes me feel pretty good to help my hometown with the completion of the largest supermarket distribution facility in United States,” Brown said. “Right here.”SBIA developments.
Several major projects for the former air base and surrounding area are imminent or already under way, including:
Airport authority officials succeeded last month in bringing aboard an airport operations company to coordinate fueling, maintenance and other services vital to aircraft operations.