Walking through the shell of an old building in Ontario, California’s historic downtown strip, Audrey Reyes sees nothing but opportunity and dollar signs around every dust-choked corner. Since Amazon began expanding its operations throughout the area, she says her family event planning business has boomed.
A woman stands in a doorway looking into a large room that appears to be in the final stages of construction.Audrey Reyes visits the event space she's building thanks to her big increase in business.Photo by JORDAN STEAD
“I would say over 100 percent – a huge difference from what we were making as far as our catering and our events. They just took us to another level,” said Reyes, who has hired additional staff and is in the process of developing a larger office location for her business, Beverly Banquets.
Since 2012, Amazon has opened nearly a dozen warehouses, also known as fulfillment centers, and other large-scale operations throughout California’s Inland Empire. That’s a 27,000 square-mile area stretching across San Bernardino and Riverside counties east of Los Angeles, with a population of more than 4.5 million. It is made up of more than 50 cities, towns, and unincorporated areas, making it a larger metropolitan area than many might realize.
City of San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis doesn’t pull any punches about the timing of Amazon’s investment in the area, which he says has been critical for the community’s development.
“In 2012, the city went into bankruptcy. And at that time, the city was over 12 percent unemployment,” said Davis, whose city now has an unemployment rate that’s half what it was six years ago. In addition to the jobs Amazon created, he sees a positive domino effect on the surrounding economy.
“That's helped property taxes to rise, which then had a direct benefit for the city from that appreciation in property value,” said Davis.
The number of Amazon employees in the region grew from 2,700 in 2012 to more than 15,000 in 2016.
John Husing, Ph.D., chief economist for the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, lays out the numbers. “Amazon investment moved through inland outlets – like local hair salons, restaurants, industrial supply firms, and grocery stores – generating a secondary impact totaling $2.7 billion. Combined, this two-step process meant that Amazon had a $4.7 billion economic impact on the Inland Empire from 2012-2016, with $1.95 billion created in 2016 alone,” said Husing.
Based on methodology developed by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Amazon estimates that the company’s investment in the Inland Empire through 2016 led to the creation of 34,600 additional jobs at area businesses like Beverly Banquets.
Reyes, whose business caters huge Amazon events like company picnics and holiday parties, says she relishes the boost, and the challenges that go with it. She once delivered 18,000 pumpkin pies for an Amazon event, an order that still makes her laugh.
“Not only has it helped our family, but it has helped us create new jobs for other people in our community,” said Reyes.