Mayor Ivy Taylor delivered her first State of the City address on Tuesday before an audience of 850 at the Grand Hyatt, seven months into her interim term in office, two weeks after she entered the mayor’s race as the fourth major candidate, and less than two months before early voting begins in the May 9 City Election.
The speech seemed to be both a report card on San Antonio’s continuing upward trajectory and Mayor Taylor’s prescription for future growth and prosperity if voters keep her on the job. Introducing her husband, Rodney, at one point, Mayor Taylor also told her own personal story of growth and transformation, one that began with an undergraduate education at Yale University and then continued with a life-changing internship as a young urban planner in San Antonio.
The mayor drew applause when she declared at the outset: “The state of the city is strong.”
She reeled off numbers, rankings and accolades that have elevated the national perception of San Antonio in recent years, and cited as strengths the city’s population and job growth, its flourishing technology and real estate sectors, affordable living, and a continued strong partnership with the U.S. military.
“We have been ranked in the top 20 American cities for business and career opportunities, and named the hottest spot for Millennials in the Southwest. Take that, Austin,” she said, sparking some applause and laughter in the audience.
Mayor Taylor emphasized economic development, reinvestment and “smart government” as strategies that could help San Antonio become even stronger financially and as a community. She noted the addition of more than 4,700 jobs, 28 companies, and construction of 4,000 new homes representing an investment of more than $650 million. She cited initiatives such as EastPoint and Pre-K 4 SA as programs helping to shape inner-city economic redevelopment and enhanced educational opportunities.
“As a city we’re actively supporting new industries and businesses that commercialize technologies based upon our existing strengths, such as the military, biomedical and the research that takes place at all of our prestigious universities and medical schools,” she said. “It’s a day to celebrate, but not a day to rest.”
A New York City native who received degrees from Yale University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mayor Taylor reflected on how higher education and her professional development as a community planner have made her and her husband, Rodney ,see that San Antonio as city with great potential.
“San Antonio has provided us with opportunities,” she said. “In San Antonio we enjoy low taxes, a strong economy, a healthy housing market and opportunities for upward mobility.”
Taylor cited three things at the core of a unified vision for making San Antonio even stronger: “We must remain economically competitive and attractive to residents, we must continue having a smart and fiscally responsible city government, and we must continue to act as ‘one San Antonio,’ working together for the future of the city and its people.”
Through innovation and collaboration, San Antonians are working together to create a climate that people around the globe find attractive, the mayor noted.
“Much of the growth we have seen in the last year has been due to our business retention and expansion efforts. Employers recognize San Antonio is a great place to do business,” Mayor Taylor said. She added the city would do what it can to ensure a business-friendly climate continues to thrive locally, benefiting both local enterprises and new ones interested in moving to San Antonio.
Ensuring the city offers a talented and well-trained workforce is critical for being competitive in a global marketplace, the mayor said, citing . She cited the City’s partnership with Alamo Colleges. Building a city that keeps talented workers moving here to meet the needs of growing companies like USAA, Rackspace and Holt Cat also is key, the mayor said, while not losing sight of supporting small businesses. More established industries such as manufacturing, education, healthcare, and the convention and hospitality sector should received equal support. Growing tech-related industries, such as cybersecurity and the biosciences depends on recruiting talented professionals to the city, too, she noted.
Citing her favorite neighborhood restaurant, Panchos and Gringos Deli and its owner, a Mexican national, Taylor said the city is in prime position to build upon the current 70,000 local jobs that are linked to international commerce. While ties are being strengthened with the likes of Mexico and Japan, connections with new markets such as Germany also are being established, the mayor added.
Enhancing everyone’s quality of life, Mayor Taylor said, while also attracting newcomers, requires not only new amenities but maintaining existing infrastructure — streets, sidewalks, drainage, and communications may not seem “sexy” but staying atop “our infrastructure is not an option, it’s a necessity.”
“In order for us to make those infrastructure investments, we must continue to have a smart government,” Taylor said. She praised city staff for helping to keep the city’s finances sound, key to undertaking major capital projects.
The mayor said smart government is more than fiscal responsibility. It’s thinking outside the box, “putting egos aside” that allow for leaders and community members to come together for the greater good, especially when federal and state dollars for projects and initiatives are jeopardized by partisan bickering and political gridlock in Washington, D.C. and Austin.
“The stark reality is we can’t rely on the federal or the state government for the things that we need. We have to do it ourselves,” she said. “We must provide this transformation through our own ambition and unique solutions tailored to our community.”
To this end, Mayor Taylor said she was proud to champion the extension of the city’s comprehensive plan that target the future San Antonio with an additional one million residents in the year 2040.
“The development of this plan is an 18-month process, which in political reality can seem like a lifetime. But this city has to be more than about politics,” she said. “It has to go beyond fancy slogans and catchy hashtags. It has to be about doing what’s right for the community and not about political careers or short-term gains.”