The view of the San Antonio skyline from The Peanut Factory Lofts. Photo by Alyssa Walker.
The view of the San Antonio skyline from The Peanut Factory Lofts. Photo by Alyssa Walker.

City officials are budgeting new dollars for the Economic Development Department to build stronger connections with established and emerging industries, pushing workforce development, and seeking local and international economic partnerships.

Briefing the City Council on Tuesday, EDD Director Rene Dominguez said the department is budgeting funds to drive smart job growth in key industries. The department’s proposed $11.6 million budget includes $1.75 million for city-wide incentives aimed at stimulating the creation and retention of San Antonian jobs and investment.

Mayor Ivy Taylor and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff jointly announced a new initiative on Monday, one that takes a page out of SA2020’s Talent Pipeline Task Force Report released in July.

Alamo Colleges and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce will co-lead the San Antonio – Talent for Economic Competitiveness (SA-TEC) initiative, which aims to intensify local government’s workforce development efforts.

“Improving our workforce development system must be one of our top priorities, because a comprehensive, industry-led system will support and connect our citizens to San Antonio’s continued prosperity,” Taylor stated in a press release.

Taylor and Wolff have appointed 13 corporate leaders to serve on the SA-TEC Board, including Peter J. Holt, senior vice president at HOLT-CAT and son of CEO and San Antonio Spurs Owner Peter Holt, who will serve as chair (see the full list of board members below).

The City and County are being asked to allocate $100,000 each to help fund staffing needs, while Alamo Colleges and the SA Chamber will provide in-kind services for SA-TEC.

A search committee has been formed to develop a job description and recruit the new organization’s executive director. Priscilla Camacho, the chamber’s vice president for education and workforce development, and Alamo Colleges Vice Chancellor Federico Zaragoza will share leadership duties until a director is hired.

Because SA-TEC is an industry-led initiative, “local industries will first and foremost tell us what they need in a workforce,” Dominguez said after the budget presentation.

Dominguez cited some of San Antonio’s growth metrics: fastest-growing Millennial population; 10th fastest growing U.S. city; eighth in job growth; 10th in best performing large cities — all reasons local officials want to leverage the City’s momentum and capitalize on the buzz.

“San Antonio continues to be a great place to come and grow your business and, as you have seen recently, a place for discovery and commercialization of ideas,” Dominguez said.

Health care accounts for one in six jobs, resulting in a $25 billion annual economic impact in town. The military’s total presence results in a $28 billion annual impact. Dominguez said these and other “legacy industries,” including tourism and manufacturing, continue to serve as the foundation of the city’s economy.

Cybersecurity, information technology, aerospace and bioscience are all sectors showing rapid growth and opportunity. From 2010 to 2014, the cybersecurity and IT sectors have shown 27% job growth and 16% wage growth, Dominguez said. Aerospace has nearly 6% growth rates in jobs and wages. The bioscience sector has shown 10% job growth and 9% wage growth. The average wage in local cybersecurity/IT career fields is $76,717.

Higher wage jobs in all these sectors is helping San Antonio attract a stronger workforce, while lower wage workers here have the only living wage guarantee among Texas cities.

Dominguez said the city can improve its profile for attracting more jobs and more workers to fill them.

“We have unique assets in each of those industries that we can leverage for more growth and higher wages,” Dominguez said, adding that partnerships across government, higher education and non-profits are key.

The EDD’s proposed $11.6 million budget includes $2.2 million for the Economic Development Incentive Fund, and $2.4 million for continuing contracts with delegate agencies such as Project Quest, Alamo Colleges and SA Youth. These and related organizations contribute to job location and skills training.

Dominguez praised organizations such as Café Commerce, Tech Bloc and LiftFund, which help startups – especially tech-oriented enterprises – with financial assistance and other resources crucial to fledgling businesses and developing industries. SA-TEC hopes to build on that momentum.

The EDD budget includes $300,000 for proposed initiatives to help expand international trade opportunities, and to expand the list of sister/friendship cities.

The budget includes $25,000 to buy floor space at the Austin Convention Center for the 2016 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. Dominguez said the timing is right for the City to have a presence at Austin’s annual festival, where cities compete to show their best sides and to recruit talent.

The SA-TEC board:

• Peter J. Holt, HOLT CAT, SA-TEC Board Chairman
• Bryan Scott, Boeing
• David Crouch, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc.
• Eddie Aldrete, IBC Bank
• Gary Joeris, Joeris General Contractors
• Alvin Loewenberg, Morningside Ministries
• Joe Robles, Retired CEO, USAA
• Geoff Crabtree, Methodist Healthcare
• John Dewey, San Antonio Manufacturers Association
• Kate Rogers, H-E-B
• Tom Cuthbert, Vistage
• Eileen Lash, JPMorgan Chase Bank
• A.J. Rodriguez, Zachry Group, Inc.

*Featured/top image: The view of the San Antonio skyline from The Peanut Factory Lofts. File photo by Alyssa Walker.

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.