By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Born and raised in San Bernardino, Mike Burrows was recently appointed the Acting Executive Director of the Inland Valley Development Agency (IVDA), a locally controlled agency responsible for the redevelopment of the former Norton Air Force Base (NAFB).
For Burrows, NAFB and the community around it is a special place.
“The base has been a part of our family forever,” Burrows said, sitting in his chair comfortably at the IVDA main office on 3rd Street in San Bernardino. “I remember being at my grandma’s house seeing C-130s flying overhead. It’s part of your upbringing.”
His mom and dad even met at the base, later marrying at a chapel across the street. His father, a civil engineer on the former NAFB, eventually finished his career with San Bernardino County Flood Control District. His mother worked for TRW Inc., a missile technology development company charged with working on the Titan missile and Minuteman II missile programs.
Burrows, a sharped-faced man with an equally sharp mind, half-jokingly calls himself a “literal product” of NAFB.
“You saw the impact it had; not just the military personnel but in the fabric of the community. The shops, stores, machine shops, and businesses that supported the base, you really get an appreciation for what it meant to the community. It was our economy.”
Burrows is a local boy true to heart. He graduated from Cajon High School and attended California State University San Bernardino as an undergraduate, later earning his MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management in Claremont.
When it came to finding a job however, Burrows wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He was into sports, played trumpet in the school band, and at one point thought he wanted to become a journalist.
“I just liked doing things. I wasn’t bad or terrible at anything, but I can’t say I was excellent at anything either. I just wanted to learn.”
It was in the learning environment that Burrows felt most in tune with himself. Before graduating he worked for the County Superintendent of Schools in a program helping adults on public assistance attain their GED—it was clear to him that he was on track to be a teacher.
He remained in school and received undergraduate degrees in English literature and creative writing.
“I was going to be the next William Faulkner of our generation,” Burrows said.
“I loved short stories, they always kind of spoke to me. I was always a fan of Shakespeare,” Burrows said. “William Blake was my poet, Shakespeare was my all around artist.”
After a San Bernardino Valley College professor rekindled his passion for writing, Burrows felt he knew the career he wanted.
“What I wanted to do, honestly, was be a community college professor teaching remedial English I. That’s what I really wanted to do, I really enjoyed that,” Burrows said.
Late in his senior year, a couple colleagues got him into writing grants. His fraternity brother had been working for IVDA as an intern and turned him on to a position with IVDA.
“When I first heard about it, my first thought was, ‘What the heck is IVDA?’”
He soon learned that IVDA was the agency formed to restore the economic prosperity that the former air force base generated. As an intern, Burrows first worked on grants for the U.S. Department of Commerce for roadways and infrastructure around the base.
“That work kind of gave me the bug,” Burrows said. “I thought that was really cool; it was big dollars to the community. It really opened my eyes to another side of things.”
From there he was brought on as an analyst working on real estate and development projects that hoped to reinstate the economic benefit of the shuttered NAFB. With the same excitement he held after receiving that first multi-million dollar grant, Burrows takes as much pride in knowing every dollar brought back to the IVDA project area is another dollar in the community’s pocket.
“Every job we bring, and what that job means to that individual and their family…that’s what keeps me here. That’s what make this place unique for me.”
After 17 years with IVDA, Burrows has worked his way up from an intern drafting grant proposals to the Executive Director’s office, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
“I still haven’t written my book yet,” Burrows said with a smirk. “But it’s on my list.”
IVDA Leading the Way Toward Job Growth and Economic Recovery for San Bernardino County
At IVDA, it’s all about the economy. In 1990, following the closure of Norton Air Force Base (NAFB), the Inland Valley Development Agency (IVDA) was created from a Joint Powers Authority between the County of San Bernardino and the Cities of San Bernardino, Colton and Loma Linda. Their goal was for IVDA to work hand-in-hand with the private sector to bring in new business, increase the tax base, and reestablish the region as the powerful economic engine it once was.
“It’s about making sure that we’ve done something at the end of the day that will provide lasting benefit to the community, which deserves the economic equivalent of what [NAFB] was,” Burrows said.
If you ask anyone who lived in or around San Bernardino during the NAFB era, from WWII into the late 1980’s, they would verify the economic significance the base held in the community.
When NAFB officially closed in 1994, the impact was enormous. An estimated 15,458 jobs were lost, $1.5 billion in annual payroll evaporated, and nearly $2 billion of economic activity ceased to exist.
Since then, IVDA, along with its master developer, Hillwood, have helped secure many name brand employers in the area including Kohl’s, Mattel, Pep Boys, Pepsi, Stater Bros., Legget & Platt®, Kohler, and Amazon. Together, these businesses and other IVDA developments have returned nearly 9,000 local jobs to the region.
Many of those jobs are housed within the 11.2 million square feet of new industrial buildings constructed by Hillwood in recent years. Additional IVDA developments like the Mountain View Avenue Widening Project and resulting bridge over the Santa Ana River are designed to serve as future corridors for increased traffic—the same traffic and goods movement that signifies increased private investment in the region. Other streets on deck for enhancement include the 3rd and 5th Street Corridors, which are due for over $15 million in renovations.
A steady stream of tenants and employers coming to the IVDA area, the newest being Amazon’s nearly 1 million square foot distribution center, point to a steady economic recovery from the 2008 downturn. With a newly appointed Acting Executive Director at helm, these road projects will lay the literal groundwork in preparing for additional investment heading into the future.
Supervisor Josie Gonzales, Co-Chair of IVDA, knows first-hand IVDA’s newly appointed Acting Executive Director possesses the qualities that will lend to the Agency’s success moving forward.
“Mr. Burrows has the local knowledge, experience, and organizational expertise that we need in this pivotal position. IVDA’s focus is now looking ahead, delivering the projects, future developments, and good paying jobs that our residents need,” stated Supervisor Gonzales.
The Inland Valley Development Agency is located at the Norton Regional Events Center – 1601 East 3rd Street, in San Bernardino. Call 909-382-4100 for more information or to schedule a visit.