Neil Derry

10:00 PM PDT on Saturday, August 21, 2010

By NEIL DERRY

For those who have tracked my concerns regarding San Bernardino International Airport, there are few surprises. During my years as a city council member, I had stated clearly that I did not believe that the creation of an airport at the former Norton Air Force Base was the best, highest use for that property. It has been my contention that Norton and the property around it would have achieved more immediate results in business attraction and job creation if attention had been focused on industrial and logistical uses and the infrastructure necessary to support those endeavors.

There are a number of reasons for this train of thought. First, Ontario International Airport was operating successfully, at least until this past economic downturn, and had expanded dramatically through the late ’90s, limiting the need for another passenger airport. But more important, the airline industry has been contracting and consolidating during the past 30 years. Bankruptcies of major airlines have taken a significant toll on the industry.

Air travel has declined. Technology has decreased the necessity of air travel for business purposes and the next generation of business executive will be more likely to engage national and international business opportunities through technology such as videoconferencing than through face-to-face dealings. Cost, convenience, and familiarity with technology drive these new realities.

There remain many challenges for commercial travel at San Bernardino International Airport. A lack of convenient access from freeways remains a serious problem as any potential passenger must traverse indirect street routes for miles to reach the new terminal.

With all these challenges, major improvements have been completed. The terminal is completed and ready for operation. Million Air’s now-completed facility is ready to serve corporate and private flight operations (“Luxury airport terminal opens,” Aug. 7).

My colleagues and I on the airport authority and redevelopment agency are committed. We have an operating airport and an obligation to make it as successful as it can be. We must make this project work for our community.

But, it would be imprudent to put all our economic eggs in the passenger air travel basket and ignore the other opportunities for economic expansion and job creation that exist independent of commercial airlines and their ancillary businesses. The completion of the airport provides a tremendous opportunity to refocus our efforts on attractive industrial and logistic business.

Infrastructure needs should be addressed to include the completion of Mountain View Bridge and the Mountain View interchange that will expedite goods transportation from existing and future businesses. Streets leading into the project area must be improved. Separate from potential airport operations, redevelopment dollars must be used to provide incentives for businesses to locate and expand. This will provide permanent, well-paying jobs and reduce unemployment by employing our local work force.

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