San Antonio’s growth is not slowing down – and business is at its forefront.
The city is adding 150 new registered cars per day, according to TXDOT, and there is construction downtown, uptown, and in between. Traffic will increase, and drivers may face more roadblocks. However, if we grow the right way and have the right perspective, the roadblocks and construction mean we’re paving the way for progress.
Business begets business, and the entrepreneurial spirit in our community, I believe, begets the entrepreneurial spirit and its expanding nature. Four members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization from four different industries point to trends San Antonio can expect and how they could affect their respective industries.
My sense is that this change is for the better. We may have to take eight different detours in eight different weeks to make our way through downtown, and our commutes on the highways may get longer, but this could also lead to some lifestyle changes, such as non-traditional work hours, remote work, more pedestrian movement, and – hopefully – a heightened belief in progress.
Here are four insiders’ takes on how industries including technology, restaurants and hospitality, telecommunications, and staffing will feel the growth.
Magaly Chocano, Sweb Development
Magaly Chocano owns Sweb Development, a web design and creative firm located downtown on South Flores Street. She has 15 employees and serves clients both locally and across the nation. Here’s her take on the impact the tech industry will feel:
“It is a tremendously positive impact. Talent is slowly, but steadily growing, and we are competing at a national scale, with the advantage of lower overhead costs. From the clientele standpoint, companies that have traditionally not considered digital as part of their strategy are coming on board. Historically our clients are from North Carolina, Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago, and we are now seeing the movement within San Antonio.
“Having been in the digital world now for nine years, since the forefront of native app development, we are able to leverage our expertise to help local brands grow. San Antonio is now adopting and realizing the need for larger spends [to build] their technology footprint within their organizations. This adoption is leading to the definitive growth in our San Antonio market. With the growth of the population and businesses, this should continue to trend upward.”
Art Flores, ArtCom
Art Flores III co-owns ArtCom, a telecommunications company that provides support and consultation both locally and across the globe. A San Antonio native, Flores has been a part of the family-operated company for more than 15 years and in ownership for more than nine years. As San Antonio continues to grow, Flores says that the telecommunications industry will trend upward as well:
“Commercial or residential development drives business growth. Businesses expand or businesses are created to serve the masses. The impact will be felt widely by national and local companies due to the affordable costs of development in San Antonio and the willingness of the population to take the job opportunities created.
“On the commercial side, new buildings bring companies looking to expand or find an updated facility. The ability to meet and learn the types of businesses that are relocating to newer facilities are usually key indicators for future growth patterns. From the residential perspective, mobility and security are the largest opportunities for the telecomm industry. More houses bring more people, and we can provide cell boosting technology for families that are heavily reliant on their wireless devices. Home camera systems are another trend that we have noticed. Families are feeling safer when they can have IP cameras that can be accessed remotely to view their residence when they are away.
“San Antonio continues to be an attractive location for out-of-state businesses due to low taxes, competitive labor costs, low land and development costs, and the business-friendly local government.”
Terry Corless, Mad Dog’s British Pub
Terry Corless, CEO of Mad Dog’s British Pub on the River Walk, moved to San Antonio in 2000 to lead the operations of the restaurant, which opened in 1996. He’s also started other business ventures – including The Bier Garten, also on the River Walk, and Counselor Chat. He is all about the data and, like any successful local business owner, has kept a strong eye on the market. In regards to San Antonio’s growth, he believes the key is to capitalize and be ready for the rise in new population:
“San Antonio’s growth is obviously an exciting prospect for any business owner or entrepreneur. The secret is to be able to position oneself or one’s business to capitalize on the opportunities. The food and beverage industry will clearly grow to accommodate the needs of the growing population.
“However, what local restaurateurs are seeing is much more competition from national chains.
“At the same time this is prompting landlords to increase lease terms and rentals as the ‘bigger boys’ play in the local market. So many of the old advantages that we had in the sleepy, old small-town days are disappearing. But there is no doubt that there are more dollars to go around. We just need to ensure that our products, brands, and services can step up to more discerning market demands.
“So there are good opportunities for the food and beverage industry, but it will come with challenges. The stakes are getting higher and the competition better, and I feel that the market is becoming ever more sophisticated and demanding. Can we deliver the product, the service, and the prices and still make money? That’s the new challenge for us all.
“Operating downtown, we have been tuned into the city’s focus on downtown and urban development plans for a number of years now. Real estate opportunities are now really only available to the wealthier developers. The opportunities for the smaller business owner have been getting scarcer and more prohibitively expensive for some time now.
“The downtown area is changing fast, from Houston Street to the Alamo and onto Southtown. I see great opportunities for up-and-coming owner/operators who can keep their overheads low and hold on until the market really matures. On Houston Street, the problem is similar – The spaces are available, but the volumes are not there yet. The businesses opportunities here may be better suited to larger, more established businesses (regional or national) who can sit it out as the market develops and downtown really establishes [itself] as a ‘true downtown’ to match the master plans.
“For the suburbs, the challenge is finding the right location with the workable overheads and well positioned for affluent (good disposable incomes) population growth.
“This is an exciting time to be in San Antonio as a business owner. It’s a time of opportunity and anticipation. I feel that it’s a time that favors the bold, but may well punish the sleepy or ill-prepared. We need to get better and perform optimally against bigger brands and more powerful competitors stepping into the local game as the word spreads about the opportunities and the wonderful benefits of San Antonio.”
Cash Cary, FirstOption Staffing
Cash Cary is the CEO of FirstOption Staffing, a temp, staffing, and business solutions company in San Antonio. As more companies move into the city, there will be more job openings and positions to fill at those companies. Cary shared his thoughts on the impacts he foresees for the staffing industry as a result of the city’s growth:
“Obviously the increase in people increases the product available for placement. There could be a multitude of reasons for relocation, but there should always be at least one member of the household looking for a job of some sort – hence not certain of exact increase in the supply. San Antonio has also gone from a brain drain to a net brain gain in the past five years.
“Wages on a national scale are heading upward because of a couple of factors – an overabundance of job openings and not enough skilled people to fill these open positions. This creates upward pressure to pay more for talent. Increased numbers of people coming to San Antonio helps stabilize this trend, because the number of skilled workers is increasing as more residents move into the city. So instead of having complete shortages in every area of the market only certain areas are feeling the pinch. The skilled industrial trades are some of the tightest markets.
“The one statistic that single-handedly gives a great boost to the staffing industry is a very low unemployment rate. When a local employer with an inefficient hiring program tries to hire in this market it can be time-consuming, costly, and fruitless. You must have a solid network to reach the right people, otherwise the time and money it takes will skyrocket with very little to show for it.
“The demand in the market has not changed the current plan or trajectory. We have been growing for years. We are hitting our targets a little faster than we thought, but it is a still a manageable growth.
“Just because we are in the staffing industry doesn’t mean we don’t struggle to find the right people as well. Since demand is up across the board, so is the demand for great people in this industry. We must constantly be looking for good people ready to join when we have an opening.”
As San Antonio continues to see growth with the entrance of new companies and residents alike, existing local entrepreneurs and business owners have much to look forward to as more people often means more opportunity. The ability to capitalize on the growth has much to do with being able to maximize this growth – most business owners foresee the influence of this population increase to ride in their favor. With great population may come great responsibility – in the spirit of entrepreneurship, it’s time to use this growth to energize our communities that have long thirsted for this revitalization. Grow, San Antonio, grow.