Mayor Ivy Taylor and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff are teaming up to put together a task force to research and investigate the deficits of the San Antonio International Airport and determine future needs.
The move comes amid the airport’s diminishing standing in the region, as nonstop flights – such as the one to Mexico City – have been discontinued. This has led many potential passengers to choose to fly out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where the same flights are typically cheaper.
In a phone interview with the Rivard Report, Mayor Taylor said that the task force is needed to keep the city competitive during its exponential growth.
“The issue of the airport keeps coming up as far as the city’s competitiveness and meeting needs of the 1 million people who are going to come here (in the next 25 years),” she said. “So we need to get folks in the room to think strategically to determine whether or not we need a new airport, changes to our existing airport, partnerships with other communities, or other innovative models.”
Taylor said that she doesn’t have a list of names yet, but knows the type of people who should serve on the task force.
“Judge Wolff and I will brainstorm, but as far as representation, we’d like to see a diversity of stakeholders,” she said. “We want business leaders that have the perspective of relying on our airport. We also want leaders in the travel and hospitality industry.”
According to City officials, leaders from the business, tourism, entertainment, and leisure sector make up about 70% of the population flying in and out of San Antonio’s airport. Based on its knowledge as well as a feasibility study proposed by Judge Wolff in his recent State of the County address, the task force-to-be would weigh a variety of options, “where nothing is off the table,” Taylor said.
Those options include collaborating with Austin on a regional airport or building another airport – in town or further south. A new facility south of San Antonio could potentially serve as a hub for the greater South Texas region and invigorate an area in need of economic stimulation.
In his State of the County address last month, Judge Wolff said he would be interested in a partnership with the City, the private sector and other counties to begin that feasibility study and perhaps lead to acquisition of land, if it’s identified.
Councilman Joe Krier (D9), who has been an advocate for expanding the airport and improving opportunities for San Antonio’s air travel capacity, said Taylor approached him to be a member of the task force and draft a mission statement. He has discussed the topic with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and said that, once the task force is formed, it would seek the expertise of consultants who could better forecast the city’s needs based on expected growth.
Taylor wouldn’t speculate on which solution would be the most realistic and the most effective.
“I can’t say that without the benefit of analysis,” she said. “What I will say is that I think it’s important to take the long view when we approach this topic, as far as competing with Austin. We’re expecting a million people, so we have to do what’s best for them.”