USTA is putting efforts into expanding its science research department. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batston
A research collaborative including UT Health San Antonio, the Southwest Research Institute, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, and Brooke Army Medical Center will shape the future of bioscience and medicine in San Antonio.

San Antonio’s evolving smart jobs economy scored big in September, with a sequence of announcements adding up to what Mayor Ron Nirenberg dubbed “a billion-dollar week.” What lies ahead in the realm of the city’s growing medical and biosciences sector holds even greater promise.

In fact, what already exists is arguably San Antonio’s most underappreciated and least understood economic success. Changing that lack of public awareness will be the subject of the Rivard Report’s second annual Medical Forum luncheon program, “The Growing Impact and Importance of San Antonio’s Billion-Dollar Research Collaborative.”

Tickets are available here.

The leaders of UT Health San Antonio, the Southwest Research Institute, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Texas Biomedical Research Institute will take to the stage to talk about their growing collaborative that annually infuses $1.25 billion into the local economy and supports the work of thousands of scientists, physicians, and researchers exploring everything from artificial intelligence to individualized, molecular-level therapies.

Brooke Army Medical Center is the key fifth wheel in that collaborative. Dr. Byron C. Hepburn, a retired Air Force major general and former BAMC commander who now serves as director of UT Health’s Military Medicine Institute, will deliver opening remarks describing the growing military-civilian medical and research collaborative.

It’s an alliance based as much on the personal relationships forged among the respective leaders as their shared ambition to redefine San Antonio as a “knowledge city.” The sum of their combined institutional strength, they know, is equal to or greater to the research and development capabilities of other comparable cities.

The collaboration that will be explored Tuesday does not stop there. Behind the economic surge in San Antonio is an evolving approach to economic development that itself represents a new level of collaboration across the private sector, higher education, and local government. The focus is on advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, and the nexus between the biosciences and medicine and healthcare.

One specific target of opportunity will be introduced at Tuesday’s forum when UT Health’s President Dr. William Henrich, Texas Biomed’s CEO Dr. Larry Schlesinger, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy, and SwRI President and CEO Adam Hamilton announce a new, free-standing collaborative focused on the science of precision therapy and its almost immeasurable capacity for changing medical diagnosis and treatment of individual patients.

I will leave it to these experts to explore the topic in greater detail and clarity, but San Antonio’s majority Hispanic population makes it an ideal learning laboratory since the diversity seen here is the diversity that eventually will be seen everywhere in the country. What scientists and researchers learn and apply here will be exportable.

If September was all about $1 billion in new manufacturing investment in San Antonio, the Oct. 15 forum will be all about what lies ahead. That’s not to take away from last month’s announcements. As everyone in leadership roles here thinks about the U.S. Census report that listed San Antonio as the city with the highest rate of poverty among the top 25 U.S. cities, it’s a reminder that improving education outcomes, producing a more highly trained workforce, and attracting and creating more smart jobs are the keys to getting off that list.

The current trend is encouraging.

That feel-good third week in September began with confirmation from Toyota that it will invest $391 million in an expansion of its Southside manufacturing plant. The same day, automotive parts supplier Aisin AW officially announced its plans to build a $400 million plant in Cibolo that will bring 900 jobs.

Days later Illinois-based Navistar, a global manufacturer of commercial vehicles, chassis, and diesel engines, announced its own plans to build a $250 million plant on the Southside, adding another 600 jobs to the fast-developing side of the city that is no longer synonymous with economic stagnation and disinvestment.

The following week wasn’t so bad, either, with news that Port San Antonio, now home to 13,000 workers in manufacturing, aviation, and cybersecurity, would construct a new $50 million cyber center to accompany one built only last year.

Some of the most amazing stories, however, lie in the collaborative we will explore Tuesday at the luncheon forum, stories that have yet to appear in the headlines.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.