Conceptual rendering of the upcoming vertiport / fixed-base operator facility at Port San Antonio, able to accommodate traditional winged aircraft and a new generation of passenger and cargo electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVOLs).
Conceptual rendering of a planned vertiport/fixed-base operator facility at Port San Antonio that officials say would accommodate traditional winged aircraft and a new generation of passenger and cargo electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVOLs). Credit: Courtesy / Port San Antonio

Port San Antonio is continuing its construction spree with the announcement of three new developments slated for the former Air Force base that has become a hub for industrial robotics, aviation and defense technology on the city’s Southwest Side.

The plans are for a “vertiport” launching pad for electric planes that take off and land vertically, a research complex that includes a simulated lunar terrain lab, and a multistory office building that will be Southwest San Antonio’s first. That office tower will include the corporate headquarters for the DeLorean Motor Company, a startup that plans to build electric vehicles under the name of the former 1980s-era automaker.

Port San Antonio President and CEO Jim Perschbach announced the new projects to hundreds of business owners and local leaders at luncheon on Tuesday at the Port’s recently opened events venue.

The planned facilities will represent hundreds of millions of dollars in investments by the Port, a release from the organization said, though an exact price tag isn’t clear yet.

Perschbach said the Port would begin this summer to engage architects, engineers and other professionals to refine the scope and design of the facilities, which will begin breaking ground in 2023.

“As we talk about these projects, we want to make sure that people in our community are building them,” said Perschbach, who walked on stage to the sound of organ music and the sight of roaring Tesla coils. He said his presentation marked the launch of a “world tour” as a similar one would be delivered in Spain, where he will be part of a delegation from San Antonio.

Port San Antonio President and CEO Jim Perschbach presents to an audience of business leaders gathered for lunch at the Tech Port Center and Arena Tuesday.
Port San Antonio President and CEO Jim Perschbach presents plans for new facilities to an audience of business leaders gathered for lunch at the Tech Port Center and Arena on Tuesday. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Among the audience members at the event were Mayor Ron Nirenberg, former Mayor Henry Cisneros, state Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio), Consul General of Mexico Rubén Minutti Zanatta and several City Council members.

The event was organized by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which recently moved its headquarters to the Port.

The choice of venue itself was an illustration of the Port’s momentum in recent years. The Tech Port Center and Arena, a $70 million facility, opened in April and includes an e-sports arena, upscale cafeteria, online gaming center and a new location for the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology.

Similar to how Geekdom has sought to build out downtown’s amenities for the tech sector, Port San Antonio is trying to make the Southwest Side attractive for businesses involved in defense, cybersecurity, robotics, aviation and more.

“Tech Port has been a game changer for the community,” said Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4), whose council district contains the Port. More broadly, she said the Port as a whole has brought opportunities for “prosperity, happiness and success” to her district and the city’s residents at large.

The Texas Comptroller office estimates the Port contributed $5.6 billion to the Texas economy in 2018.

Port officials say the former military base is home to more than 80 companies that employ 16,000 workers.

In the past four years, the Port has expanded by 680,000 square feet of additional facilities, including office buildings, industrial buildings and a public charter school.

Port officials are drumming up interest in the planned facilities, and have organized three workshops through the summer to educate local businesses. Pre-registration is required on the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s website.

Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham writes about business and technology. Contact him at waylon@sareport.org.