In the early 2010s, the Inland Empire witnessed a warehouse boom that has continued into the 2020s. As of 2023, the Inland Empire has become home to over 4,000 warehouse facilities. The warehouse boom has provided economic benefits for the region, mainly increasing job opportunities. Currently, there are about 265,000 warehouse workers employed around the area. However, most of them earn relatively low wages. There are more negatives than positives to the warehouse growth in the county. Land that had been planned to be occupied by retail centers is now being occupied by warehouse facilities, thus preventing any new job opportunities from arising that are not warehouse-related. The air quality has also worsened due to the toxic fumes released from the warehouse facilities, putting residents at risk of experiencing respiratory problems.
Earlier this year, on June 13, Rialto leaders approved the construction of a 470,000-square-foot warehouse on Pepper Avenue. At first, the area was supposed to be home to a new retail plaza, which could have presented new job opportunities that needed to be more warehouse-related. A vote held by council members ended in a 3-2 vote. Councilmembers Andy Carrizales, Ed Scott, and Rafael Trujillo voted in favor of the development, and Mayor Deborah Robertson and Councilmember Joe Baca Sr. voted in opposition. Currently, Rialto holds the most warehouses in the Inland Empire. About 50% of the land has been occupied by warehouse facilities. Rialto residents have voiced their frustrations with the project, deeming it unwanted by the community.
The principal justification for the growth of warehouse facilities in the Inland Empire is their economic benefits. Indeed, there has been an increase in job opportunities due to the warehouse boom, but most of the jobs offered pay an average salary of $18 an hour. Most warehouse workers struggle to earn fair pay, and they tend to live from check to check. The majority of warehouse workers are Black and Latino individuals around their 20s and 30s, adding to the growing number of people of color in low-income earning jobs.
Unfortunately, most warehouse facilities are built near poorer neighborhoods, increasing the amount of health disparities disadvantaged individuals experience in general. As of 2023, The Inland Empire has ranked the worst air quality in the nation due to the emissions from warehouse operations. Residents who live near warehouse facilities have a higher chance of developing asthma and experiencing heart attacks than others in the county.
Talks about automation have also begun, which begs the question of what will happen to the warehouse workers who are currently employed. If the principal justification for warehouse growth in the Inland Empire is that it would provide new job opportunities, the introduction of automation would be contradictory. Automation would displace many individuals who depend on their jobs to provide for themselves and their families. Fortunately, automation has yet to be fully implemented in warehouses, but this can quickly change as automation becomes more affordable.
The Inland Empire is not so welcoming due to the influx of warehouses around the county. Some residents plan to move towards the Los Angeles area in the hope of finding better job opportunities and neighborhoods to live in. Some residents have already relocated due to the poor air quality. Unfortunately, residents in poorer neighborhoods do not have the option of being able to relocate, further placing low-income families, individuals, and communities at a disadvantage.