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The Inland Empire benefits from the warehouse industry

Daily Bulletin | Opinion | Curt Hagman

PUBLISHED: January 25, 2023 at 11:27 a.m. | UPDATED: January 25, 2023 at 2:35 p.m.

The holidays are in the rear-view mirror. Packages wrapped and put under the tree are safely in toy bins, clothes are in the closet and the Christmas meal is long since forgotten. Another thing that is far from consumers’ minds is how the toys, clothes, fruits and vegetables and other products reach the stores this Holiday season. The answer is the supply and warehouse facilities strategically located throughout the Inland Empire.

In California we’re home to two of the largest ports in the United States, Los Angeles and Long Beach, which collectively import roughly 40% of the total container cargo entering the country. Global supply chain companies and the warehouse sector prefer the Inland Empire because of our proximity to the ports, both major railways and the two largest interstate highways that allow for efficient distribution throughout California and the rest of the country.

As of 2023, the Inland Empire boasts more than a half-billion square feet of warehouse space with a vacancy rate of less than 1%, an extraordinary statistic at a time while other sectors recover from the pandemic and brace for a possible recession. San Bernardino County has more than 3,000 warehouses and Riverside County has almost 1,000 more. Warehousing and logistics centers are an essential component in freight movement and a major job-creating industry in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The lack of available warehousing space coupled with consumers’ continued appetite for goods necessitates continued construction of warehouses.

Many Inland Empire cities understand the industry’s importance. Local decision-makers have either approved or are considering mixed-use projects that include affordable housing in conjunction with warehouse and logistics components to better meet community needs. These mixed-use projects are vital to our economic vitality because the warehouse component in projects incentivizes developers to invest more broadly in the region. Residents and the community benefit from sewer, water and roadway improvements, schools and parks and other vital infrastructure that otherwise would not be built. These mixed-use projects encourage workers to live and shop near their place of employment, thereby reducing vehicle miles traveled and associated air pollution.

To address potential impacts to vulnerable communities, local and state governments have created innovative land use policies, often referred to as good neighbor policies, that get projects built but do so with minimal environmental and maximum community impact.

Contrary to critics’ arguments, according to the SCAQMD’s own data, air quality emissions have dramatically improved over the past four decades while the warehouse industry has grown fivefold. Why? Because the industry continues to invest in environmentally friendly buildings and the trucking industry commits to vehicles with reduced or near zero-emission emissions.

County and municipal governments, as part of the decision-making process, are required to follow California’s stringent environmental laws, as well as countless other state, regional and local regulations when we review and decide whether to approve projects.

California consumers expect readily available supplies of food and products whenever they want them, at affordable prices. The Inland Empire plays a critical role in California’s and the nation’s “just in time” delivery system for consumers that are more environmentally friendly and community focused than the rest of the United States.

Lately, critics have called for warehouse moratoriums or outright bans. Their misguided proposals gloss over the real-world and draconian impact their potential bans would have on supply chains in local communities and the entire region.

If we fail to keep pace with the growing demand for additional warehouse space, the result will be immediate and far-reaching throughout the Inland Empire — loss of good-paying jobs, less affordable housing, fewer environmental benefits and community infrastructure improvements, not to mention the gains other jurisdictions will make at our expense. Now is not the time to turn our backs on the environmental and economic progress made. To do so will make next year’s holidays, and our overall quality of life, a logistical challenge none of us want, need or can afford.

Curt Hagman represents San Bernardino County’s 4th District, which includes the cities of Chino, Chino Hills, Montclair, Ontario and the southern portion of Upland.