Want to know why so many growing companies are choosing San Bernardino County in inland Southern California as their next home base?
Consider the example of Pacific Mountain Logistics (PML). Located in the City of San Bernardino, the company takes advantage of on-the-job training programs and other incentives offered through the County.
“We’ve been able to use the On Job Experience program for young people who need it,” says B.J. Patterson, CEO of Pacific Mountain Logistics. “We’ve also used the County training that goes through the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board — free seminars and other programs.”
“The County and the City of Colton are supportive of our company and our programs with incentives to grow the business and stay here.”
— Jeff Baldassari, CEO, U.S. Rubber
PML has 65 employees, up 35% from 2020. “We’ll expand again this year,” says Patterson. “We were in Ontario before we moved into this larger facility. It’s time for us to grow again.”
He adds that if access to a trained workforce in logistics is what you’re looking for, and a workforce willing to work in manufacturing, “we have the type of people who want to do those jobs. And we have the right kinds of training programs through the Workforce Development Board. The WDB in San Bernardino County is one of the best, if not the best in the nation, at training the people you need to get the job done.”
PML is far from alone. All around this County of 2.2 million people, rapidly growing firms are finding a new home in the center of a young, well-trained workforce. Over the next 10 years, the regional population is projected to rise by 9% and future job growth is estimated to be 38.7%, much higher than the anticipated U.S. average of 33.5% job growth.
According to government officials, San Bernardino County is already home to 63,000 business establishments. The County’s labor force is 990,400 people. As of 2020, total gross domestic product in San Bernardino County was more than $91 billion, an increase of 0.7% from 2019.
San Bernardino County’s Workforce Development Board holds many job fairs supported by local employers. Pictured here is the Barstow Job Fair and Hiring Event.
Photo courtesy of San Bernardino County EDA
32,000 Grads Per Year Add Up
Phil Cothran, Chairman of the Workforce Development Board of San Bernardino County, says there are many reasons why coastal firms are moving inland to places like Colton, Ontario, Redlands, Chino and San Bernardino. “Interstates 210, 10, 15 and 215 are here. That puts us in the middle of what’s happening. It’s hard to get out of Southern California without going through San Bernardino County. Our people are much younger than the workers in Los Angeles and Orange County. We have a good business environment, and we are open to new businesses. Plus, we are the logistics hub of the world. That makes it easier to get things done, built, and occupied.”
That younger workforce gets replenished every year as well. “We have 25,000 high school kids who graduate each year in San Bernardino County,” Cothran says. “They need a job. We are telling them that we have a place for you in San Bernardino County. That is a huge workforce. About 10 to 15% go away to college. The rest stay home and go to college locally.”
For those who stay, the educational and training options are abundant. Cal State San Bernardino offers a program in logistics. The County has seven community colleges and two universities. “We graduate another 7,000 college students each year,” notes Cothran.
“Plus, we are seeing more of our young people return home after college.”
“The Workforce Development Board in San Bernardino County is one of the best, if not the best in the nation, at training the people you need to get the job done.”
— B.J. Patterson, CEO, Pacific Mountain Logistics
Why is the County widely regarded as a national leader in worker training? Cothran says the answer is simple. “We hold the record in California for doing the most on-the-job training. We do the bulk of that with new people entering the workforce. We do customized training with Chaffey College and Victor Valley College,” he says. “They can develop customized programs. That has been phenomenal. We just did training with California Steel Industries for welders. We had a program to train them on their campus in Fontana.
Our training center there has been up and running for two to three years.”
Giving Good Workers a Second Chance
Another reason San Bernardino County attracts employers is the fact the County goes out of its way to give second chances to people who make good employees. Thomas Urioste is one of them. Gainfully employed as a technician at U.S. Rubber in Colton, Urioste has experienced the highs and lows of life and, in his own words, “came out of the fire like a good piece of steel.”
A former inmate who spent 11 years behind bars, Urioste today is a highly valued employee at U.S. Rubber, a firm that removes used truck tires from the local waste stream and recycles them into custom-colored flooring and sound-absorbing underlayment for multistory buildings. About half of the workers at U.S. Rubber are formerly incarcerated people. The company hires them as part of U.S. Rubber’s Bounce Back program.
“When I got out of prison after 11 years, I went to a halfway house,” Urioste says. “A caseworker let me know about a program going on at this place. I came and checked it out. Right away, I felt comfortable. Many people here are like me. They got into trouble, like I did, but now we are being given a second chance. Everyone made me feel comfortable. They taught me things that now I have in my playbook.”
Urioste is quick to point out that the feeling of family at U.S. Rubber “starts at the top. Jeff Baldassari, the CEO, checks on me all the time. He trusts in me. So does Leslie Morales [vice president of operations]. She checks on me at least once a week.”
The training process at the firm played to his strengths, says Urioste, which included his muscular frame. “They saw that I was strong. They put me on a peeler machine. They showed me how to operate this machine and let me dive into it. Now, they are happy with me because I produce numbers and quality. Luckily, I am a fast learner.”
Urioste says he enjoys working at U.S. Rubber “for the simple fact that they put trust in me. That trust made me feel good. Who is going to trust a convict with thousands of dollars of material? That’s big trust. That trust fortifies my spirit and soul and makes me feel good about myself.”
Morales, who manages Bounce Back at U.S. Rubber, collaborates with the Workforce Development Board of San Bernardino County in onboarding and training workers who are transitioning back into society.
Thomas Urioste, technician, U.S. Rubber
Photo courtesy of U.S. Rubber
“They [the Workforce Board] are amazing at helping us get the resources we need. It is a reciprocal relationship. They take the new hires through the first 90 days of employment.
Someone at WDB mentors them and checks in with them every 30 days. We share our experience with the employee with the County as well. We will also outfit the new workers with clothing and safety boots.”
Morales adds that “some of our folks have had issues with housing and transportation. The County helps us with that too. There are also financial incentives for the company. At the end of the 90-day probationary period, the County reimburses us 50% of their salary. We can also participate in various tax credits.”
Morales says the firm has had the program in place for 20 years. “When Jeff came on board, he named the program Bounce Back and he invested more time with the agencies and the County,” she says.
Seeking Space in the Sweet Spot
The success of Bounce Back, as well as increased demand for U.S. Rubber products, has the company bursting at the seams. “In the next three to five years, we will at least double or triple our workforce. I am in a constant state of hiring,” says Morales. “We have added more machines and that requires more bodies. We operate two full shifts, and we will bring on a third shift in the next 30 days. There is never a time when I don’t need to hire at least four to six people.”
Baldassari says his firm processed 15 million pounds of discarded truck tires last year.
“About half our workforce is sourced through non-profit agencies like the County and state,” he notes. “We have been doing this since the late 1990s. Since the spring of 2020, we have exponentially grown. When you have labor shortages, it compounds the challenge. We are competing in the Inland Empire with the big boys. It is difficult to go to the traditional market. That market is very transactional. Jobs go to the highest bidder. Second-chance hiring has been a great resource for us to support our growth.”
Baldassari calls San Bernardino County a “business-friendly community. The County and the City of Colton are supportive of our company and our programs with incentives to grow the business and stay here. We’re looking for a new location, and the County has been helpful. The incentives are excellent. We’re looking for a facility right now. We’re trying to keep up with growth. We’re located at the midpoint of downtown Riverside and downtown San Bernardino, just off I-15 between the 60 and the 10.”
Baldassari is looking for 80,000 to 150,000 sq. ft. of space. “We started in 1996 in Riverside. We have about 70 employees today in a 50,000-square-foot facility in Colton,” he adds. “We’re working three shifts around the clock. We would use 80,000 to 100,000 square feet immediately.”
Training Talent from Fontana to Victorville
The County offers other training resources as well. The Intech Center in Fontana, for example, is the first public-private partnership in the California Community College System and quite possibly in the U.S. InTech provides in-demand technical training and professional development programs that include nationally recognized and stackable certifications that lead to good-paying careers.
A 33,000 sq.-ft. facility with six classrooms, a computer lab, mechatronics lab, electrical lab and mechanical lab, the center is operated by Chaffey College Economic Development and is 100% self-funded.
Thanks to the success of the InTech Center, the college decided to launch the High Desert Training Center in Victorville to provide additional training support in that northern region of the County.
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of San Bernardino County. For more information, contact the county Economic Development Department at 909-387-4700. On the web, go to www.SelectSBCounty.com.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.