One of San Antonio’s economic engines is getting a new CEO, and after nearly four years with Roland Mower at the helm, Port San Antonio’s board of directors is aiming to realize what City Councilman Greg Brockhouse calls the “massive potential” of the 1,900-acre former Air Force base.
Mower resigned Tuesday following a “board decision,” said Brockhouse, whose District 6 lies just outside Port San Antonio.
Home to about 12,000 workers and more than 70 employers in the areas of cybersecurity, aerospace, manufacturing, and logistics — among others — the Port had a more than $5 billion impact on the economy in 2016, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
The Rivard Report contacted several board members, who declined to comment on what prompted the decision to seek Mower’s resignation. Mower did not respond to email and telephone requests for an interview.
“It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve as CEO of the Port for the past three and a half years, and I look forward to working with the Board in my new role,” Mower said in a press release. “I look forward to all the great things to come for Port San Antonio.”
Mower’s resignation, which won’t be effective until Dec. 31, will initiate a search for Port San Antonio’s new top executive at a special meeting of its board of directors set for Friday. The board will consider accepting Mower’s resignation and appointing him special advisor to the board, according to a Port San Antonio news release. His beginning date in his potential advisor role will be determined by the board.
Board chair Victoria Garcia said Mower helped grow the city’s economy through development projects.
“His deep knowledge and commitment to the Port’s economic development goals have helped the Port become a successful engine of economic development in San Antonio,” Garcia said. “I am grateful for Roland’s willingness to assist and provide guidance to the board as we begin the process of appointing an interim CEO.”
However, Brockhouse said the City of San Antonio invests tens of millions of dollars in Port San Antonio with little return to show for it.
“With the amount of money they’ve received, I think it is well past time for them to change direction, start thinking about the community, and build an economic generator for the city,” he said. “I think that’s been missed over the last few years. I’m happy to see a change of focus.”
The former Air Force base played a critical role in the city’s military-based economy up until its closure in 2001. The Port was founded with the intent of transforming the complex into a private- and public-sector hub and to grow industries and manufacturing in San Antonio.
Among his accomplishments since being appointed in 2014, Mower helped add hundreds of new jobs in the advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, and global logistics development within the former base through the recruitment of several companies.
T.J. Mayes, chief of staff to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff who sits on the San Antonio City Council-appointed board, said Mower has served the San Antonio community well.
“He understood that the port was a regional economic asset that could especially help us continue to expand the aerospace and cybersecurity industries,” Mayes said. “His leadership on the Project Tech initiative is emblematic of that.”
Project Tech is a $20 million, 90,000-square-foot technology complex that will house firms supporting San Antonio’s growing cybersecurity community.
“Now we need to look forward and decide how the Port will fit into the broader SA Tomorrow comprehensive plan, the Bexar County Economic Development plan, and reach out to economic stakeholders to figure out how we are going to grow the cybersecurity, manufacturing, and other key sectors of our economy,” Mayes said.
David Heard, a local cybersecurity expert and CEO of San Antonio’s tech sector advocacy organization Tech Bloc, said Mower has been active in the economic development arena and has helped execute the vision of building out San Antonio’s cybersecurity and other STEM-based sectors.
“From everything I can tell he leaves the organization and all the projects in good stead,” Heard said. “I think our city needs Port San Antonio — our technology sector needs Port San Antonio to be successful. I know he worked hard to get them a good distance down the road toward that.
“We look forward to Port San Antonio continuing to be a very vibrant and healthy part of our tech narrative, an innovation powerhouse for our city. I still think their best days are ahead.”
Rey Chavez — who leads San Antonio Manufacturers Association, a local manufacturing industry advocacy group — said the news of Mower’s resignation came as a surprise.
“This was news to all of us,” Chavez said. “He will be missed, and SAMA will continue to assist the Port in sustaining and recruiting manufacturing companies.”