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California's richest farming family is threatening to transform the small town with a new mega-warehouse for major retailers that will transform the area into an international trade hub

By Isabelle Stanley for Dailymail.Com

03:59 May 14, 2024, updated 06:31 May 14, 2024

  • Billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick own the Wonderful Company
  • They want to expand their distribution center into an international hub

California's wealthiest farming family plans to expand an industrial warehouse complex to transform a small town into an international trade center.

Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the billionaires behind The Wonderful Company, already own a sprawling distribution center in Shafter, northwest of Bakersfield.

According to a report from the LA Times, they are now looking to expand the center to create an international hub to position the county at the forefront of the global shift to online shopping.

The move would convert 1,800 acres of the company's almond groves in Kern County into additional storage space.

The proposal has come under fire because of environmental concerns. Critics say it will increase truck traffic and worsen air quality.

The development would transform Shafter from a small town of just 20,162 residents into a booming commercial center.

As part of the cleanup, the company is proposing to build a new highway that would divert trucks from downtown Shafter.

They also want to build an inland rail terminal at a cost of at least $120 million to transport products from the port by rail, reducing dependence on State Route 99.

Wonderful already builds and rents warehouses to major online shopping companies for storing goods and processing orders.

They say the expansion project and related infrastructure plans are different from a bevy of massive distribution centers that have sprung up in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

While many residents welcome the plans and the new jobs, others are concerned about the impact on the environment.

Gustavo Aguirre, deputy director of the Delano-based Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, told the LA Times: “I understand that the company says it will create jobs; that's true to a certain extent.

“But it is also true that there will be health and environmental impacts that will impact neighbors who live near the industrial park.”

They want to expand the center to create an international hub and position the county at the forefront of the global shift to online shopping
The move would convert 1,800 acres of the company's almond groves into additional storage space

According to Wonderful Co., the industrial park has created about 10,000 jobs, including warehouse workers, truck drivers and shipping logistics providers.

They say the complex could ultimately create 50,000 jobs with the planned expansion.

But some fear increasing automation will mean the expansion won't create as many jobs as promised.

As technology advances and more companies use robotics to produce, process and deliver goods, some industrial jobs have become redundant.

UC Riverside's Ellen Reese told the LA Times: ““Warehouses both create jobs and destroy jobs.”

We build and rent warehouses to large online shopping companies for storing goods and processing orders
They want to build an inland rail terminal at a cost of at least $120 million to transport products from the port by rail, reducing dependence on State Route 99

She added: “A lot of research actually suggests that more automated warehouses have higher injury rates than less automated warehouses.”

John Guinn, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the real estate team, told the LA Times, “I don't think it's a bad thing if we can do twice as much with half as much work.”

“What I think is bad is that there are a lot of people who don’t have jobs or have jobs that aren’t particularly good.”

He added that when completed, the new rail center at the industrial park would mean each train could replace 240 trucks.

The Resnicks are known for their philanthropy, donating to climate research, scholarships and wellness centers in the region.

Through The Wonderful Company, they own POM Wonderful, Fiji Water, Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds, Wonderful Halos, Wonderful Seedless Lemons, JUSTIN Wines, Landmark Wines, JNSQ Wines and floral wire service company Teleflora.

Aguirre is helping the company negotiate a broader benefits agreement to ensure people living near Shafter get more than just jobs from the expansion.

He said: “The residents recognize this.” [this project] could bring jobs, but they come at a price.

“That's why they say, 'What are you going to do for our community?'

DailyMail.com contacted The Wonderful Co. for comment.

Anna Harden

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