More than 1,500 local IT professionals attended the 2016 InnoTech conference. Photo by Lea Thompson

Austin may be the “Tech Capital” of Texas, but according a study released at the InnoTech San Antonio conference on Wednesday, San Antonio is closing in on that title. The local IT industry has a more than $10 billion impact, according to the report’s authors.

The study – developed through a partnership between San Antonio Tecosystem and the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF) – focuses on the overall impact of San Antonio’s information technology economy including IT companies, non-IT companies with technical employees and IT work within the U.S. Federal Government’s departments and agencies.

The number of of IT professionals in San Antonio has more than doubled since 1999, and the overall economic impact from IT companies has grown by 67%.

“You shouldn’t be surprised that we have 34,000 IT people here, you shouldn’t be surprised that we have over a $10 billion impact,” said Shaun Williams, founder and chair of SA-Tecosystem. “San Antonio is (a city) of innovators, and we have been for a very long time.”

Shaun Williams, founder and chairperson of SA-Techosystem, takes part of the panel on San Antonio's IT economy. Photo by Lea Thompson
Shaun Williams, founder and chairperson of SA-Techosystem, takes part of the panel on San Antonio’s IT economy. Photo by Lea Thompson

The 2014 economic study was conducted by Trinity University professors, Richard Butler and Mary E. Stefl, who agreed that the study reported a largely positive economic growth for IT careers and businesses in San Antonio.

IT professionals in San Antonio took home a combined $2.7 billion in salary in wages each year, while the economic impact of the companies alone is about $10 billion, Butler said. The industry has moved away from the traditional manufacturing model of business, toward providing IT services to clients.

San Antonio has struggled to grow and retain its IT community since the loss of DataPoint in the 1960s, said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, but companies like Rackspace, Geekdom and Codeup are helping to change that trend, and the city’s approach to tech education.

“We’ve really come a long way in terms of recognizing the importance of this industry, and we’re making major changes in public education because we’ve finally come to the realization that it’s all about talent – developing, attracting, and retaining that talent” that will bring new companies and individuals to San Antonio, Wolff said. 

An educated workforce will help bolster the city’s growing IT economy.

“First and foremost, we want them to get those skills,” he said, citing programs like SA Works, which provides industry certificates to students in high school, and offers professional training to students in local junior colleges.

San Antonio already leads the country in cybersecurity education through its training programs at UTSA, Wolff said, and has more cybersecurity resources than any other city in the country, outside of Washington D.C. In addition to the growing number of San Antonio residents seeking IT training through competitions like CyberPatriot, Bexar County is looking to expand the number of IT cyber education programs to all independent school districts in the San Antonio area.

Austin may be the tech capital of Texas,”but they just ran off Uber and Lyft, and we have them here, so that means something,” he added, referencing the popularity of the rideshare companies among young tech professionals that cities are looking to attract.

Williams estimated that more than 1,500 IT employees were in attendance at Infotech’s one-day conference. Hosted at the new Henry B. Gonzalez Center, the event offered workshops, exhibits, lectures and networking opportunities for individuals working in or with San Antonio’s IT industry.

“We want to be something different than San Francisco or Austin. We want to deliver an IT epicenter and maintain our diversity,” said Williams. “Our diversity is our strength, and we need to find a way to measure that.”

Richard Butler, a professor at Trinity University, helped conduct the 2014 Economic Impact study. Photo by Lea Thompson
Richard Butler, a professor at Trinity University, helped conduct the 2014 Economic Impact study. Photo by Lea Thompson

Several members from the Board of Advisors, including Sharon O’Malley Burg, touched on San Antonio’s rising profile as a cybersecurity provider, particularly through government and military agencies.

“Almost half of the IT workforce being discussed here today is related to the government community,” she said. “The world is figuring out we have a huge base of talent in cybersecurity, and (companies) come to San Antonio and they recruit our retiring military leaders in that area because they know we are growing the talent that isn’t grown in many places.”

SAEDF and SA-Tecosystem will partner again for another economic study, but will look at new methods of measurement to gather and record accurate information to compare, board members said. They will also focus on particular IT sectors including aerospace, new energy, and bio science and healthcare, said Danny Chavez, vice president of SAEDF Business Recruitment and Economic Development.

“The diversity of our IT economy places San Antonio in the unique position with the potential to be a trailblazing 21st century IT economy,” Chavez said. “It is time for San Antonio to (define) our own identity based on our unique story, history of innovation and a vision that fully embodies our competitive advantages. … It is a vision that will inspire us all.”

Top Image: More than 1,500 local IT professionals attended the 2016 InnoTech conference. Photo by Lea Thompson  

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Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson, a former reporter at the Rivard Report, is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events.