The South Texas Business Partnership recently named a former San Antonio City councilwoman who represented the South Side for eight years as its new president and CEO.

The organization that advocates for businesses in the region selected Rebecca Viagran to replace outgoing CEO Al Arreola, who had led the group since 2014.

Arreola resigned in October to accept the top post at the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce.

Viagran said she was attracted to the role and the organization’s mission to serve as a collective voice for economic development.

“Of course, I am a believer not just in the South Side of San Antonio, but Bexar County and South Texas, so I knew that I could step in and be that advocate and convener and really connect for the members as well as just regional partners as well,” she said.

Viagran represented District 3 on the council for four terms, from 2013 to 2021, and was succeeded by her sister, Phyllis Viagran, who won a runoff election in June 2021 to secure the seat.

During Rebecca Viagran’s long tenure on the council, the South Side experienced rapid economic development at the mixed-use community Brooks and in the manufacturing and service sectors. 

In 2017, commercial truck and bus maker Navistar announced it would invest more than $275 million in a new plant on the South Side and retailer TJX built a distribution center that brought more than 1,000 jobs to the region. 

Viagran also helped secure a World Heritage designation for the San Antonio missions.

She said there’s still a lot of opportunity and available land in South San Antonio and the organization should play a role in how and where businesses get established and grow.

“We want to make sure that the Partnership is at the table when companies are looking because we want to make sure that we are designing with them and not just being told, ‘Hey, this is what’s going to happen,’ because I believe we are a value-add in any conversation,” Viagran said.

In 2022, Viagran ran for election to the U.S. House to represent Texas’ 35th Congressional District but lost to Greg Casar in the Democratic primary. 

She most recently served as director of workforce development and community partnerships in the president’s office at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

Formed in 1982 as the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the South Texas Business Partnership was renamed earlier this year following a merger with the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce in 2020. The organization represents 450 business members and has its offices at Brooks. 

In November, the Partnership’s board elected Blaine Lopez, partner of KFW Engineers + Surveying, chair of its 33-member board of directors. 

The new leadership announcement at the South Texas Business Partnership follows recent changes at two other prominent San Antonio business organizations. In November, the leaders of both the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce announced they were stepping down to pursue other roles.

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...