Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of greater:SATX, is joining forces with 11 other local business leaders to form a new initiative seeking to bridge racial divides aross key areas such as education and economic opportunity.
Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of greater:SATX, is joining forces with 11 other local business leaders to form a new initiative seeking to bridge racial divides aross key areas such as education and economic opportunity. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Twelve San Antonio business leaders have joined to form a new partnership called the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity, with the stated mission of improving racial equity in San Antonio.

The group has pledged to contribute $13.8 million over five years to support “initiatives for underserved people,” according to a press release from Spurs Sports & Entertainment announcing the group.

San Antonio residents are 63.8% Hispanic and 6.5% Black, according to 2020 census figures. A 2019 report on racial inequities from the city shows that, among other indicators, Hispanic and Black residents endure poverty rates nearly double that of non-Hispanic white residents.

The list of founding members for the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity reads like a who’s who of San Antonio business leaders, including top executives from major local corporations such as H-E-B, Rackspace, and USAA.

The list also reflects the fact that most of the city’s business leaders are white men. Out of the 12 founding members — of whom 11 are men — only two have Hispanic surnames, and none is Black. One is a native of India.

The partnership’s founding members are:

  • Brad Barron, president and CEO, NuStar Energy
  • Craig Boyan, president and chief operating officer, H-E-B
  • RC Buford, CEO, Spurs Sports & Entertainment
  • Joe Gorder, chairman and CEO, Valero Energy Corp.
  • Phil Green, chairman and CEO, Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc.
  • Adam Hamilton, president and CEO, Southwest Research Institute
  • Kevin Jones, CEO, Rackspace Technology
  • Wayne Peacock, CEO, USAA
  • Robert Puente, president and CEO, San Antonio Water System
  • Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO, greater:SATX (known until recently as the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation)
  • G.P. Singh, philanthropist
  • Kevin Voelkel, president, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas Inc.

Over the last year, these executives met with local and national leaders and experts, arranged into three “community resource groups,” who provided input and recommendations on how money should be spent.

“It wasn’t just casual listening,” said Ryan Lugalia-Hollon, executive director at the UP Partnership, a nonprofit helping the partnership with its focus on safety and justice. “The community resource groups literally shaped the strategy for the $13.8 million.”

Lugalia-Hollon said most of the specific beneficiaries for the $13.8 million have not been determined, though some “folks with clear track records on the issues” have been outlined.

Chairing at least two of the three community resource groups are staff leaders from United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, Loi Taylor and Jeniffer Richardson.

Lugalia-Hollon said these business leader’s efforts were significant because they come at a time when the state government has made it “harder to talk about racism,” referring to the recent law affecting the teaching of so-called critical race theory in Texas’ public schools.

“These corporate leaders are saying, ‘No, we have to talk about this. This can’t just be a moment for 2020,” he said, referring to the widespread reckoning that summer over inequalities for Black Americans.

While some companies are contributing money toward the partnership, others are offering paid internships to people of color.

The partnership’s contributions will be handled primarily by the San Antonio Area Foundation, with a secondary role for the United Way. Efforts will focus on three areas, according to the release: “equitable education, economic opportunity, and community safety and justice.”

Under these categories are initiatives such as bridging the city’s digital divide, reintegration for the previously incarcerated, funding tutoring programs for students, workforce training, services for small businesses, and subsidizing early childhood education.

Many overlap with workforce development efforts that business groups have long sought, such as training San Antonio’s labor pool and increasing access to child care, whose importance in the labor market has been highlighted under the recent worker shortage.

Corporate Partners for Racial Equity founding member Green said in a prepared video provided by Spurs Sports & Entertainment that progress toward racial equity in San Antonio helps the city overall.

“The more progress we can make toward this objective, the better, stronger, and more attractive San Antonio becomes [and] the more organizations and families will look to move here and be a part of this great place.”

He said his focus toward racial equity stemmed from revelations following the “tragic situation” of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis killed by police in May 2020, and subsequent conversations with Black friends and associates.

Disclosure: H-E-B, Valero Energy Corp., NuStar Energy, USAA, Frost Bank, Toyota Motor North America, and UP Partnership are financial supporters of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

Waylon Cunningham covered business and technology for the San Antonio Report.