The battle for DHL – part deux

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Eight years following realignment from an active to a reserve military base, March Air Reserve Base near Riverside finally snagged a key element in the pursuit of joint military-civilian reuse as major international cargo carrier DHL announced this week that it had selected the airfield for its new Southern California air-cargo hub. It is DHL’s eighth, newly announced regional hub as part of the German-based shipping giant’s, $1.2 billion North American expansion plans.

DHL’s plan to build a California hub in the Inland Empire is part of a $1.2 billion investment by Deutsche Post World to challenge the dominance of UPS and FedEx on the U.S. companies’ home turf.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – December 12, 2004

The agreement between the March JPA (joint powers authority) and DHL allows for the constructing of a 380,000-square-foot cargo distribution center at the airfield by the fall of 2005.

For the past 6 months, the JPA (consisting of Riverside County and the cities of Riverside, Moreno Valley, and Perris) has been involved in stiff competition with nearby San Bernardino International Airport (the former Norton Air Force Base) and Ontario International Airport in landing the new hub. In what was undoubtedly tight negotiations, the superiority of March’s facilities, its operational costs (both partially subsidized by the U.S. military’s continuing presence on the base) and its ability to quickly absorb the project were key ingredients in DHL’s decision.

… DHL selected March because of the financial package, easy access to freeways and its ability to have the hub open by next autumn.

Los Angeles Times – December 14, 2004

“We look forward to building positive relationships, particularly in areas where we have a company presence,” (DHL spokesman Jonathan) Baker said. “We will work with local officials and the local community to help ensure that happens.”

Riverside Press-Enterprise – December 11, 2004

As one of only a handful of joint-use military/civilian airfields in the country, the agreement is expected to gain national attention as other communities struggling with the economic downturn associated with base closures and/or realignments look to March’s joint-use model. The deal with DHL, which is reported to be well below normal Southern California airfield rents, includes the waiving of landing and fueling fees on most flights during the first three years of the 15-year, $20 million lease:

“It’s a sweetheart deal,” said Guy Fox, chairman of the Los Angeles Air Cargo Assn. “When you have a new entity such as March, and they’re trying to attain identity as a commercial airport, you know they’re going to do whatever they can to obtain a platform of business.”

Still, Fox said, it was a deal that March officials as well as DHL executives were smart to make, because other businesses would follow their lead.

“It’s very competitive. You have nothing there, and you’re trying to have a platform on which to build,” Fox said. “If you get somebody who is a name player, then other businesses say, ‘These people are in there, so they must have something good.'”

Los Angeles Times – December 14, 2004

In a region hit hard by past military base closures and realignments, DHL’s impending arrival is particularly good news as the 1992 and 1994 closures of George and Norton Air Force bases in San Bernardino County and the 1996 downsizing of March Air Force Base in Riverside County cost an estimated 37,000 jobs and $3.9 billion in economic activity in the region.

However, there has also been some opposition to the DHL project from residents living near March ARB.



  • Riverside Press-Enterprise: DHL picks March ARB (Dec. 11) | Norton backers say March offered better incentive (Dec. 11) | DHLs challenge deemed costly, but doable (Dec. 12) | DHL foes cite noise; others seek jobs (Dec. 12) | MARB: Cargo plan seen as model (Dec. 15)
  • Los Angeles Times: DHL Picks March Base as New Hub (Dec. 14)
  • Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: San Bernardino, ONT airports lose out to air base

Sources: Riverside Press-Enterprise (PE-20041211, PE-20041212, PE-20041215), Los Angeles Times (LAT-20041214)

2024 PAGE UPDATE: Added newspaper citation/insert; removed outdated links to newspaper articles.

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