By Dianne Anderson
Big business partners are helping keep the lights on at San Bernardino International Airport, and in turn, the community is getting in line for good jobs opening up there in the months ahead.
Mike Burrows, the airport’s chief executive officer, said that opportunities span several categories of their revitalization effort.
Through the pandemic, he said they have sustained good working numbers with partner businesses, including UPS and FedEx. Companies continued to keep most of their workforce working.
“We’ve tried to advocate for them to increase business contracts where they can. It’s been really busy, 24/7 particularly in the past year, but it’s paying off,” he said.
Burrows is working with Amazon Air and helping open the Southern California regional air hub, which is a flagship facility at the airport. Soon it will open, and provide thousands of jobs at full operation.
He is excited to see how far San Bernardino Airport has grown in the past 12 years, including a diversified tenant base with aerospace companies conducting critical national priority work with NASA and Boeing.
Drones, the future of flight, also offers good jobs potential.
To help spur opportunities during COVID-19, the Inland Valley Development Agency opened an innovative UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) center for drone pilot certification, training and product testing.
Early on, he said customers came from the county fire and sheriff’s department, and he expects to increase support for public safety operators. He said the field is open, and accessible.
“You can be an everyday person that wants to expand your skill set, or from a professional standpoint [pursue] a drone pilot’s license as you transition careers. You can be 16 or 61 and you can be a drone pilot,” he said.
Other creative happenings with technology come through their strategic partners CalTech and GPL. ESRI was their first partner, testing new mapping technologies, which is also one of the many uses for drone activities. Certified airport operations staff also use drones to reduce miles traveled around the airport.
That adds up to clean jobs.
“It’s environmentally sensitive. Airport Operation Officers can view the airfield and wildlife inspection utilizing the drone without having to put miles on vehicles, that helps our carbon footprint,” he said.
Last week, the airport supported facilities for Amazon Air to host their first on-site hiring event, screening over 1,000 candidates in three days. They expect to hire 1,000 employees in the first year, scaling up to about 3,800 in full operation. The air cargo facility will be similar to the UPS hub in Ontario, and will be the only one in southern California.
“This is a big deal for them and a big deal for us. It’s over $300 million in private investment, but 100% privately financed,” he said. “They really do a lot in promoting upward mobility that I’ve seen so far.”
In demand jobs include air cargo workers, ramp agents, ground support. Other opportunities include training for higher-skilled technical systems that operate from online orders, or from plane to truck. Positions also support and integrate with all southern California fulfillment centers.
Workers starting at entry-level can move up with UPS, FedEx and Amazon Air, along with other opportunities such as aircraft mechanics, aviation technicians, software programming.
A few years ago, he said the airport offered several internships at the community college and university levels, expanding it with San Bernardino County Generation Go, a program that includes K-12.
“We’ve got a really cool drone program, and an airport firefighter training certification center right here on the airport. We’ve got the forest service tanker base,” he said. “We’ve got four well-established aircraft maintenance companies that work on the world’s airlines.”
All of their airport business partners continue good job offerings at the site, including Stater Bros., which houses their central distribution for stores.
Because so many businesses have layoffs due to COVID-19, he said the airport is committed to supporting the community with resources like San Bernardino Workforce Development, Goodwill Industries and other long-standing partners.
“For people looking for employment, Amazon Air is an active recruitment, and that’s going to continue until they fill that gigantic campus up,” he said.
The business park retention rate is strong. The key, he said, is running a lean tight ship since they started their partnership in 2001 with Hillwood, a Perot Company, which has now grown with Fortune 50, 100 and 500 companies.
“We’ve been consistently for the last three years the fastest growing air cargo airport in the United States,” he said. “We only started in air cargo about five years ago and we’ve done double-digit growth every single year since.”
Burrows added they continue to survey the impact of the Norton Air Force Base closure, and working toward replacing the job losses from the 2009 Great Recession. When the base closed, the economic impact reverberated throughout the Inland Empire, and 10,000 direct jobs were lost.
To recuperate, he said the airport pulled in quality partner companies across several industries to get local people back to work where they live.
At last count in 2019, they had created 12,855 direct jobs.
“That isn’t developer funny math, it’s a straight-up hard count. At that point in time, equating to $2 billion of economic output,” he said.
To learn more, see https://www.sbdairport.com/opportunities/employment/