san Bernardino County Sun04/17/04WHO SAYS STATER’S DEAL ISN’T BEST THING FOR SB’S FUTURE The ugly caterpillar left behind when the government shut down Norton Air Force Base suddenly is blossoming into the butterfly we’d all hoped it would become.This past week, Stater Bros. Markets firmed up its agreement with the Inland Valley Development Agency to build its new headquarters and distribution center at the old air base. Sealing the $200 million deal comes days after Mattel opened its 1.2 million-square-foot distribution facility next door to where Stater’s will build its 2 million-square-foot state-of-the-art center. That’s a whole lot of footage, and a whole lot of jobs 2,000 at Stater’s alone. So, why would anyone question the value of that? Because people are people, and need something to complain about. Take those who say the Stater’s deal is no big deal, because the company simply is shifting existing jobs from other locations.Never mind that the company could have “shifted’ those jobs to Texas or Arizona or any number of states that would have loved to have had Stater’s for themselves. Never mind, too, that the Norton project is taking flight in a way that could only be dreamed about a few years back.IVDA and base master developer Hillwood Investments have landed three big fish Stater’s, Mattel and Kohl’s, which last year opened a distribution facility across the street.Those projects are turning Tippecanoe Avenue into a vibrant artery and showing the world that it is possible to do business in San Bernardino.More important, they’re creating hope for the future one in which greater San Bernardino emerges as a major distribution center, with a bountiful job market and the kind of spinoff business that could carry the region for decades to come.No doubt, there are issues to contend with. Warehousing and distribution isn’t as labor intensive as, say, manufacturing, and pay scales aren’t likely to keep up with the rapidly escalating cost of housing in the Inland Empire.There are also legitimate concerns about congestion and pollution from increased truck and train traffic. And yet the alternative … frankly, there isn’t an acceptable one.San Bernardino is neither beggar nor chooser, but a community that, when it comes to economic development, it needs to be as aggressive as it can be, and it must play to its strengths.Railways and shipping goods are a big part of our past and, if done the right way, can anchor our future.In all honesty, how else is a San Bernardino going to lure in companies with the chops of a Mattel or a Kohl’s? That doesn’t diminish what we are. Rather, it recognizes a competitive edge we’ve got over comparable-size cities in Orange or Los Angeles counties.Throw into the mix a major home-grown company Stater Bros. that cares greatly about our community, and it’s clear that what’s taking place at the old air base is a gift horse we should leave alone.