San Antonio skyline by Kevin G. Saunders.
San Antonio skyline by Kevin G. Saunders.
Lorenzo Gomez 80/20 Foundation

How do you tell your story or sell your idea in seven words or less? In the start-up world the ability to distill your idea into one sentence is an art that takes almost NBA-level practice at the free throw line. I’ve recently learned that in some marketing circles this is referred to as “micro-scripting.” Geekdom for example, is The Place Where Startups Are Born. Rackspace is The Open Cloud Company. But what about a city?

Over the last two years, I’ve been working to contribute to the already great momentum that San Antonio has established. I find myself in airports selling San Antonio to complete strangers. I talk to old friends, new friends and tourists, but usually I only have a few moments to launch the San Antonio story I want to plant in their minds. And so, I began to look for the perfect Micro-Script. And after months of trial and error, I think I’ve found it.

The 80/20 Foundation report. Click image or here to download.
The 80/20 Foundation report on San Antonio’s Top 10 rankings. Click image or here to download.

During one of our normal brainstorming sessions my mentor Graham Weston and I were trying to refine our San Antonio pitch. We obsessed for hours over the smallest word and concept. Then he said:

“When you and I travel and we tell people we are the seventh largest city in America it doesn’t really hit them. They think to themselves, ‘Why have I never heard of you?’ If you are in another country, a city with 1.3 million people is sometimes the size of one area of town. No, there is more to the city than stats like this. It is the notion that San Antonio is a City On The Rise.”

And there it was, a San Antonio Micro-Script I could sell: San Antonio: A City On The Rise.

So why did these four words hit me the way they did? I think it’s because ‘City on the Rise’ means that we are up and coming. It means we are going places and you need to keep one eye cocked for us because we’re gaining on you. When people ask, “Why haven’t I heard of you?” It’s because we are a City On The Rise, that’s why.

A list of reports and studies in which San Antonio ranks number one. Courtesy of the 8020 Foundation report.
A list of reports, studies, and articles in which San Antonio ranks number one. Courtesy of the 8020 Foundation report.

There is much more to it. I recently joined the board of SA2020 – the brainchild of Mayor Julian Castro, who boldly set the charge and unleashed the city to achieve greatness in less than a decade. As we sat in our various committees brainstorming and white boarding we realized that we needed a phrase to galvanize our efforts. City On the Rise is what it turned out to be.

You say, “Our early education indicators are not up to par?” We agree, but there is action happening. People are in motion. ‘The drop out rates unacceptable?’ We agree, but things are happening. Programs are underway and taking root. Mentors are stepping forward and signing up. Things are not perfect, but we are getting better. That is how a City on the Rise moves.

San Antonio skyline by Kevin G. Saunders.
San Antonio skyline by Kevin G. Saunders.

So who owns this initiative? Is it the Mayor’s job to make us continue to be a City on the Rise? Is it the city council’s? The SA2020 staff? The answer is that in a City On the Rise, it is everyone’s job. Have you started a neighborhood book club? Are you the entrepreneur that just started the new coffee shop near our house? Are you mentoring a young person with Big Brothers Big Sisters? Then you are an active member of the City on the Rise.

In my work at The 80/20 Foundation and in collaborating with the SA2020 team, people ask us every single day, “I want to be a part of this, what should I do?” The answer is that you need to follow your passions. You don’t need our permission, but if you’d like it, then here it is: You are now officially knighted to carry out the SA2020 mission of making us a “city on the rise!”

But let’s go back to our Micro-Script for a second. In the branding world, the only way a vision like City on the Rise works is if it’s believable. So when I tell someone that San Antonio is a City on the Rise and they shoot back something like, “Prove it.” Here is what I say:

Let’s play a little game called “Did you know…”

Did you know that San Antonio….

Enough of boring stats like that. You can see it with your own eyes. The 80/20 Foundation has done some of it’s own “micro research” and identified all the areas where SA has been cited in the top 10 over the last four years. If you want a self-esteem boost I will tell you the list is 135 items long. Click here to see.

So, if you ask me what SA2020 is, it’s a community-driven movement to make San Antonio the world-class city it’s already on its way to becoming. If you ask me what SA2020 does, we are the champions of the City on the Rise. We keep score, keep our finger on the pulse and connect people to more people. That is how we raise the city–by celebrating our successes, telling the stories both good and bad, and knighting people all over to take the charge back home with them and make it their own.

Now that we have planted the flag, we want you to tell us your story. The “I Am SA2020” blog is about how people like you are helping to make this city rise more than ever. We’d love to hear from you.

Lorenzo Gomez works for The 80/20 Foundation. He is also an SA2020 board member, the founder of the nonprofit technology blog eSamaritan, and former ten-year Rackspace employee. You can follow him on Twitter at @lgomez123.

Related Stories:

Why I’m Stubborn About San Antonio

SA2020: Moving from Aspiration to Accountability

SA2020 Then and Now: Brainstorm to Reality to Report Card

Conversation: Renting in San Antonio’s Urban Core

Why San Antonio’s Future is Bright

Atlantic Cities’ Focus on San Antonio

Mayor Castro: “It’s an Exciting Time to be in San Antonio”

The Key to Continued Brain Gain: Specialized Higher Education

San Antonio Makes the Lists, Which Makes Us Happy

Lorenzo Gomez works for The 80/20 Foundation, the director of Geekdom, and is a former, ten-year Rackspace employee.