Amazon holds grand opening for San Bernardino mega warehouse

Exterior of new Amazon distribution center in San Bernardino.
Exterior of new Amazon distribution center in San Bernardino.
Steven Cuevas / KPCC
Exterior of new Amazon distribution center in San Bernardino.
San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris speaks at an opening ceremony for the new Amazon distribution center.
Steven Cuevas / KPCC

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Amazon’s first distribution center in California is now open in San Bernardino. It covers almost a million square feet of warehouse space at the former Norton Air Force base.

But what’s more important to San Bernardino is this: the Amazon facility is putting hundreds of people to work.

At the opening ceremony for the fulfillment center, general manager Eric Lewis held up a paperback book like it was a game-winning trophy.

“Just yesterday, we shipped our first package. It was a book by the name of 'Wool,'” explained Lewis. “This is a copy of that book right here. We shipped it to a customer in Nevada.”

Science fiction writer Hugh Howley wrote “Wool.” He describes it as the story of mankind clawing for survival in an unkind world, where dreamers and optimists are considered dangerous.

Like San Bernardino maybe?

“A city with great financial distress, with an incredibly high unemployment rate,” said Mayor Pat Morris.

Morris said the jobless rate in San Bernardino is staggering: about 14-percent. Over the summer, the city also filed for emergency bankruptcy protection.

Morris and other elected leaders have faith that companies like Amazon will help this town pull out of its fiscal death spiral.

“Seven hundred employees are now employed inside this facility; it’ll soon be a thousand and come 'Black Friday,' perhaps even two thousand. That’s exactly the kind of economic stimulus this city needs.”

A possible sales tax revenue sharing plan with Amazon has been tabled in the wake of San Bernardino’s economic mess. Plunging sales tax revenue is part of what landed the city in bankruptcy court in the first place.

A portion of the Amazon facility is still under construction. It’s expected to be fully operational by early next year - when the company plans to hold yet another opening day party.