Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff announced the formation of an economic transition committee Tuesday. The team will help plan how to best reopen local businesses and activities in the San Antonio area as social distancing guidelines are scaled back.

Kevin Voelkel, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, and Julissa Carielo, president of Tejas Premier Building Contractors, will lead the committee. Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) and Bexar County Commissioner Chico Rodriguez (Pct. 1) will serve as liaisons to the committee. 

“It is imperative that we begin to chart a course for life after this pandemic’s surge, understanding that how and when our full economy resumes will have critical implications on our public health and our region’s resiliency,” Nirenberg and Wolff wrote in a joint memo to City Council members and Bexar County commissioners.

The team will look at social distancing guidelines and how to keep workers and vulnerable populations healthy as businesses reopen and people return to work, according to a City press release. County and city officials imposed a stay-at-home order March 23 that closed nonessential businesses and limited restaurants to takeout service, idling workers in numerous industries.

“There’s roughly 20 people on that committee representing various sectors of our San Antonio economy – small businesses, some of the larger businesses, and just community members who are here to make sure that we not only have a successful containment of this pandemic and open in a safe manner, but that when we do open, we can get San Antonio back up and running,” Nirenberg said.

San Antonio’s economic transition team’s formation comes after Gov. Greg Abbott announced a statewide “strike force” Friday that would focus on restarting the statewide economy. 

Last week, Nirenberg and Wolff appointed a health transition team charged with drafting a plan to safely reopen San Antonio. That plan is due Monday, and the two leaders have asked the economic transition team to assemble its plan by May 1. The plans will then be presented to City Council and Bexar County commissioners.

Sweb Development CEO Magaly Chocano, who is one of the economic committee members, said she brings not only the small business perspective to the team but also that of a parent and consumer.

“How do we create a place in which both [businesses and consumers] feel comfortable and safe?” she asked. 

Because Sweb Development is a cloud-based company, it moved smoothly to a work-from-home operation, Chocano said. But her husband, who owns a restaurant, has had to deal with changing its function to curbside pickup and delivery only. The economic transition team will help figure out how to reopen those types of businesses. 

“What I understand is we’re going to create protocols – not only for businesses in general to open slowly and safely, [but to also] create an environment in which people feel a confidence build-up of going back to these places of business and work, and rolling it out slowly but safely,” Chocano said.

Other members of the transition team include Southwest Pipe Trades Association political director Leonard Aguilar, La Familia Cortez Chief Operations Officer Pete Cortez, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation President and CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, Spire Risk Management Chairman Buddy Morris, The Friendly Spot Ice House’s Jody Bailey Newman, Spurs Sports and Entertainment Executive Vice President Bobby Perez, Indatatech founder and CEO Bebe Ramcharan, LM Tatum President Lisa Tatum, SwipeTrack CEO Melanie Tawil, and Terranalia Consulting Principal Wayne Terry. 

Kenneth Kemp, pastor of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, also will serve on the team, as well as San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez, Bexar County Manager David Smith, and City Manager Erik Walsh.

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.