Bexar County Commissioners advanced Tech Bloc‘s initiative to hire a chief talent officer (CTO) for San Antonio’s tech industry Tuesday by granting a one-time seed fund of $180,000. The resources will go toward the new CTO’s salary and startup materials and fund a digital platform to market Bexar County’s tech industry to outside regions.
“We’ve been working with County staff for about a year now on this vision,” Tech Bloc CEO David Heard said. The CTO will serve as a single resource for all San Antonio tech companies seeking skilled workers, and for individuals pursuing employment in the tech field.
Commissioners had discussed allocating $150,000 for the new CTO last week, but Tuesday agreed to an additional $30,000 in funding for the digital platform. The City of San Antonio is expected to soon match the County’s funding for the new initiatives.
“Most tech importers in Bexar County are smaller companies, with no dedicated staff or expertise in workforce recruitment,” Heard said during his presentation to commissioners. “We resort to very expensive headhunter services and are navigating very fractured, confusing, costly, and inefficient processes of finding and hiring needed tech talent.”
Heard shared studies from CBRE Research that showed San Antonio’s tech competitiveness slipping further behind both leading industry cities and other growing tech markets in Texas.
“Everyday we are losing these invaluable high-pay tech jobs to places like Austin,” Heard said. “When companies like Rackspace transition their workforce, and shed workers like they did earlier this year, too many of these valuable tech workers have trouble finding the right opportunities locally and decide to move away.”
Heard also proposed the development of an online multimedia platform that would market and brand the city’s urban tech district, offering potential workers an opportunity to explore the environments that they would be working in. The service would assist the role of the CTO in attracting tech talent.
“The tech district downtown is truly an opportunity for us to tell a story to the world about careers in tech in our county and our city,” Heard said. “The idea is to build an interactive map where people can navigate the zone and understand the buildings that comprise the tech district where the various companies are located.”
Photographers, bloggers, and other content creators would highlight the environments and amenities of the tech district as a whole and provide details on experiences within individual tech companies.
Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3) expressed support for the CTO position and offered input on the importance of the role from the perspective of someone who had previously worked as a talent recruiter.
“This is a headhunter extraordinaire,” Wolff said after the presentation. “I can’t stress how important this is. The benefits far outweigh the costs.”
Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) expressed his support for the initiative, but also spoke to some of the cultural trends responsible for putting San Antonio further behind other cities seeking to expand their tech centers with skilled IT workers.
“If we’re really honest with ourselves, we are in a fourth tier of tech cities,” Calvert said. “To me this is all about education, education, education – at home in San Antonio and across Bexar County.”
Calvert emphasized the need for the city’s high schools to better prepare their students by offering IT certifications necessary for entry-level tech positions. Moreover, he stressed the need for the city’s universities to establish more graduate programs that offer degrees that open doors to more skilled positions.
“I think everything [Calvert] said was spot on,” Heard said. “We’ve got some coordinating work to do with SA Works. We’re going to feed them data and input into that system and improve outcomes.”
Heard said the CTO position and online marketing platform will be self-funded with private contributions following the initial two-year assistance from the County – and perhaps soon the City.
“It’s nice to get the launching grant,” Heard said. “We have high hopes that the City will follow the County’s lead with some additional money.”