ONTARIO, Calif. (KABC) -- Decades ago in the Inland Empire communities of Chino and Ontario, there was farmland as far as the eye could see. But in recent years, many of those farms have been gobbled up by warehouses and the rapidly expanding logistics industry.
"The L.A. basin used to feed itself 100 years ago, and we've gotten completely away from that," Randy Bekendam said.
Bekendam operates Amy's Farms in Ontario, a 10-acre property focused on sustainable fruits and vegetables. He was one of many people to protest a proposal for a business park and more warehouses across the street from the property.
"It's not so much the specific concern across the street," Bekendam said.
Bekendam is concerned about the seemingly never-ending growth of the logistics industry.
"It's the steamroller," Bekendam said. "There are 23 square miles under warehouses [in the Inland Empire]. Just process that."
Bekendam was one of several people to speak out against the proposed project at a recent Ontario city council meeting.
"We're in a drought-prone hot region," said Angeles Miramontes. "We're going to be looking at supply chain disruptions that will disrupt our food chain and we have to plan ahead."
The council eventually voted unanimously to approve the proposed project, and several people who spoke out at the meeting were indeed in favor of it.
"A project like this is what opened the door for me to sufficiently be able to provide for my family," said Jason Baez. "With a living wage with benefits, just as it is continuing to do for men and women in our communities."
But the 200-acre project planned for an area near Eucalyptus Avenue and Merrill Avenue will only make up a tiny portion of the massive warehousing and logistics industry in the Inland Empire.
"It's a substantial part of the economy," economist John Husing said.
Husig says the first giant warehouses went up in the 1980s. He says the industry now makes up about 50% of job growth in the region.
"So when people say 'let's stop this,' as an economist, I have to laugh and say 'right, lets have a deep recession in the Inland Empire,' because it's the sector that's powering it."
Amazon has close to two dozen so-called fulfillment centers in the Inland Empire.
"So you have somebody who works for Amazon; they get their paycheck and go home and go to Stater Brothers to shop," said Husing. "Part of the jobs at Stater Brothers are therefore supported by that. You really have an enormous impact positively on the region and also on those who are the poorest. Because it's a place where you can get a job that pays exceptionally well for a person with no background in the field at all."
Husing says the high desert is another area where this industry continues to grow.
Back in Ontario, there remains concerns.
"The jobs, they're probably going to go to robotics," Bekendam said. "I mean this is prime farmland, and once you pave it, it's gone."