BARSTOW - Opposition to building Wal-Mart stores across the region has stalled plans to develop an 800,000-square-foot distribution center in Barstow, according to city officials.

Barstow Economic Development Director Ron Rector said that Wal-Mart officials told him that the proposed Barstow facility, which would be built on Lenwood Road north of Interstate 15 and would potentially create more than 500 jobs, is being held up as opposition groups protest the building of Super Wal-Mart stores in Los Angeles county.

"Until they have something to deliver to they aren't going to invest $65 million dollars," Rector said. "This project is not going away. It is part of their transportation network and will be built."

He said that although the delay can be frustrating, he thinks community members understand the setback.

"I wish it would happen tomorrow, but the reality is we have to wait a little bit," he said. "It is trying my patience a bit."

He said that Wal-Mart has not started the planning and permitting process to build the facility, but he expects it to happen within months.

Wal-Mart officials did not return calls to confirm the reasons for the delay. The project was announced in December 2005 and construction was scheduled to begin in late 2006, Wal-Mart representatives said at the time.

Although he said he wasn't sure which groups or stores Wal-Mart might be referring to, Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angles County Economic Development Corporation, said he knows of three planned Wal-Mart Supercenters - large retail stores that also include grocery markets - that are being held up in his county. He said the opposition may cause the company to rethink its plan to build the mega-stores, switching instead to smaller neighborhood markets.

"In Los Angeles, what you've had is a big push back by the unions against Wal-Mart," he said. "The unions have been fairly successful, especially at the local level."

He said that city council members and planning commissioners in Inglewood and Rosemead have felt pressured by a variety of opposition groups to further scrutinize the company's permit applications, something Kyser said he expects to continue.

"I think its going to be a standoff for a considerable period of time. We have to watch what will happen in the retail market in 2008."

Jon Getz, an organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union in Southern California, rejected the idea that opposition groups are the reason for the delay of the distribution center's construction.

"That's just hogwash," he said. "They blame the union for everything. It's uncharacteristic for them to not build."

He said he thinks that the company is using the opposition as an excuse to back out of its Barstow development plans.

"I find it hard to believe that Wal-Mart doesn't have enough stores to need the distribution center," he said. "They're popping up all over the state."

With plans for the distribution center on hold, Rector said that Barstow's economic development hopes rest on bringing other logistics and manufacturing jobs to the Barstow Industrial Park near Lenwood. However, those projects must also wait until the environmental review process, expected to last three to six months, is completed.

He said that the delays mean that the housing, retail and labor markets won't see projected growth as soon as many would like.

"If you look at the potential of thousands of dollars of disposal income that can't be created just yet, of course it has an effect," he said. "It means I can't be as aggressive as I want to be in attracting new business."

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