Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on Wednesday discussed plans to pursue a more focused public transit system and announced a new partnership to help connect veterans and their families to jobs in Bexar County.
The County is partnering with the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to form the Bexar County Military Transition Center, a first-of-its-kind program aimed at reaching service members before they discharge, he said.
The center’s goal is to target the roughly 4,000 military personnel that process out of the service in Bexar County annually and connect them with local employers seeking a skilled workforce. Military members and their families may work with County staff to create an online profile that allows the North San Antonio Chamber to appropriately identify industries and businesses in need of employees.
Wolff told reporters after his speech that the program may also connect military personnel to job training opportunities.
“It will be the first direct pipeline for helping them secure employment outside the gate,” Wolff said. “Our veterans have served us, and now we want the opportunity to serve them.”
In his first State of the County address in 2018, Wolff also touted other additions to the local workforce development by way of recruitment and expansion of several major companies.
Speaking to an audience of nearly 500 at the Omni San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade, Wolff said the County fulfilled commitments made during his last State of the County address, delivered little more than six months ago.
He lauded the addition of more than 33,000 new jobs in Bexar County in the last year, noting that the unemployment rate of 3.5 percent is lower than the average rate in both Texas and the rest of the United States.
A partnership with the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation led to the recruitment and expansion of several companies in Bexar County, bringing in 5,210 new jobs with companies such as Ernst & Young, T.J. Maxx, and Hulu. All in all, Wolff reported that $355 million in capital had been created.
In his last State of the County speech, Wolff identified the need for a multimodal mass transit system and has since partnered with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg to form ConnectSA, a nonprofit dedicated to pursuing a new mass transit system for the greater San Antonio area. However, he and Nirenberg have since abandoned the idea of light rail in favor of a trackless train system currently being piloted in China.
Wolff highlighted Bexar County’s appointment of three new VIA board members as indicative of its intention to bring in “new ideas from a younger generation” with an emphasis on technology. The new appointees are USAA Innovation Director Marina Alderete Gavito, former Bexar County Development Director Jordana Decamps Mathews, and Akeem Brown, chief operating officer for San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside.
He also encouraged VIA Metropolitan Transit to “reallocate resources” toward providing a consumer-driven Micro Transit System in partnership with private-sector companies. While VIA already has a proposed pilot project providing the rideshare-style service, Wolff pushed for the program to move forward faster.
In addition to formulating a public transit solution, Wolff looked ahead to next summer’s 86th session of the Texas Legislature, from which he hopes to receive more state funding for highways. As San Antonio faces an influx of 1 million new constituents in the next 20 years, he said, the region will need around $20 billion to keep the highway system in top shape, but currently only has $7 billion.
Wolff said approximately $262 million in Bexar County funds had been allocated to ongoing projects to enhance existing roadways including U.S. Highway 281, Loop 1604, and Interstate 10. He told reporters after the speech that he did not believe the State would fulfill its “obligation” to provide additional funding.
The County’s new Women and Children’s Tower remains a priority, Wolff said of a frequent campaign talking point he shares with Bexar County Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2). The two are running for re-election in the November general election and have named finishing the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, restoration of the Alameda Theater, and the construction of the University Health System tower as projects they want to see completed before the end of their tenures.
Wolff also noted the near completion of the County’s new magistrate center at the Bexar County Jail. He persisted that although the City and the San Antonio Police Department had decided not to use the $32.5 million facility for intake, they would eventually come around to the idea.
In addition to projects either in the works or under construction, Wolff addressed other projects slated for the future. He said he’d had discussions with UTSA President Taylor Eighmy on building a National Security Collaboration Center in conjunction with the proposed development of the downtown UTSA campus. The site could also serve host a new school of data science, he said.
He also insisted that the County “stay on top” of the opioid crisis, and mentioned a forthcoming County-sponsored needle exchange program.
“If we will put our shoulders together and … continue to push this community forward to address the major issues that are facing us,” Wolff said, “we are going to build a world class city.”