Los Angeles Times03/11/04STATER BROS. PLANS MOVE TO FORMER AIR BASE Grocery chain hopes to build 2.2 million square feet of distribution space at San Bernardino site By Janet WilsonTimes Staff WriterSpurning suitors from two neighboring states and Los Angeles and Riverside counties, the Stater Bros. grocery chain is poised to move its Colton headquarters down the road to the former Norton Air Force base in San Bernardino.”We are in the final stages of negotiations,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Jack H. Brown. “I might add that San Bernardino is my hometown, and certainly being able to keep the Stater Bros. family at home was something that was on our minds, although we had to make the best business decision for the company.” The deal, expected to total about $100 million for the purchase and development of 160 acres of abandoned military buildings, will ultimately put 2.2 million square feet of warehouse space under one roof, Brown said. Construction could begin by June, and when finished it would be the single largest distribution center in Southern California, he said.Stater Bros. is the Inland Empire’s largest private employer, with nearly 13,000 of its 14,500 employees in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The unionized chain was not involved in the recent grocery labor action, and was a major beneficiary when shoppers fled its Southland competitors during the dispute, Brown said. He predicted more than $3 billion in sales for the chain in 2004.Stater Bros.’ move would provide a major boost to the conversion of the former base, which closed in 1994, to an industrial park. Ross Perot Jr.’s Dallas-based Hillwood Investment Properties is the master developer of the 2,000-acre former base, renamed AllianceCalifornia. The airport portion was renamed San Bernardino International Airport.The Stater Bros. facility would be the third major project at the site. Kohl’s department stores has moved into a distribution center, and Mattel has agreed to move into a million-square-foot site.