San Antonio-based insurance, banking and investment giant USAA is moving more than 100 workers downtown to its One Riverwalk Place tower in the central business district, and establishing a 100-person design studio in downtown Austin, a company spokesman confirmed Thursday. Both moves are expected to happen in early 2017.

“USAA will be expanding its presence at One Riverwalk Center. We will nearly double our current workforce downtown by adding more than 100 current employees and new hires,” said Matthew Hartwig, USAA’s communications director. “The additional employees will primarily focus on technology, research and development, and digital capabilities to improve our members’ experience. They will be housed on the 19th floor of the building. When completed, USAA will have approximately 250 employees working at our downtown location. The anticipated timeframe for the expansion is Q1 2017.”

Hartwig said USAA will open an office in downtown Austin where a staff of 100 or more will focus on designing an enhanced user experience for its customers.

“USAA will be opening an office location in Austin at the same time that will house more than 100 IT and design employees focused on creating the systems that impact our members’ and employees’ experience. Their expertise will be as designers and developers,” he said. “These announcements are part of USAA’s strategy to leverage multiple markets across the country, including Phoenix, Tampa and Colorado Springs, to employ the best talent in a given specialty, and we expect that to continue as USAA strives to meet the needs of our members.”

Word of the expansion began circulating in downtown circles on Thursday shortly after an email announcing the news went out to employees. Plans to make the official announcement were moved up to Thursday after the Rivard Report contacted USAA officials seeking comment.

USAA’s growing workforce is the latest evidence of continuing growth in the downtown tech community.

“2016 is the year our downtown tech scene will hit critical mass,” said Lorenzo Gomez, CEO of Geekdom, which has expanded to cover three floors of the Rand Building at 100 E. Houston St., home to the Rackspace Open Cloud Academy and the future home of Google Fiber. Google is currently renovating the last two available floors at the eight-story historic building for the workforce it is establishing in San Antonio. The Rivard Report is also located in the Rand Building.

“Having another 100 tech workers in our community pushes the ecosystem to the tipping point,” Gomez said.

With the move, USAA will now occupy four floors of the 18-story tower it acquired in 2013. Last year the USAA name was added to the upper floors of the building after the company moved the first 150 workers into three vacant floors of the tower. The building’s other tenants include South Texas Money Management, Marmon Mok Architecture, which designed the building, and several law firms. One Riverwalk is located at 700 N. St. Mary’s St. on the River Walk, one block from the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

Tech Bloc will hold its one-year anniversary rally on June 16 at Pearl Stable. Organizers say the focus will be on the growing downtown tech community and that several announcements about further growth are going to made at the event.

“There’s hundreds of great tech companies across our city, and we love every one of them, but there is clearly a new hot zone for startups and technology developing downtown,” said Tech Bloc Co-Founder and CEO David Heard. “It’s great to see one of San Antonio’s largest employers bring more of their tech talent into this new district.”

Advocates like Rackspace, Geekdom, Codeup and Tech Bloc have led growth of the tech ecosystem. The San Antonio Entrepreneur Center, which opened in February, is a nonprofit focused on stimulating job growth and providing support and resources to startups.

“The Center has planted its flag deliberately on Houston Street,” said Co-Founder Peter French. “We recognize lots of folks are concentrating their energies on creating a downtown attractive to tech companies and we want to be part of that.”

This story was originally published on Thursday, May 26.

Top image: The USAA downtown offices at One Riverwalk Place.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.