Spotlight On: Erik Walsh, City Manager, City of San Antonio

Spotlight On: Erik Walsh, City Manager, City of San Antonio

2021-10-22T15:14:17+00:00October 22nd, 2021|San Antonio, Spotlight On|

Erik Walsh, City Manager, City of San Antonio12 min read October 2021 — San Antonio is the nation’s seventh-largest city. In an interview with Invest:, City Manager Erik Walsh discussed his vision for the city over the coming years. Infrastructure projects and a workforce program are top of mind for Walsh as the city continues to grow and attract a great deal of business and residential attention.

What are some of the city’s top priorities at this time?

We have great opportunities in a number of different areas. One, we go to the voters every five years with a municipal bond, and our next bond is going to the voters in May 2022. As it stands right now, this will be the largest municipal bond that we’ve ever issued. The bond will be $1.2 billion, providing funds to build out our infrastructure. Our bond program assumes no change to the tax rate, which is critical not only to the business community but to residents as well.

Secondly, we are focused on utilizing funds from the American Rescue Plan. The city received approximately $326.9 million. We are utilizing these funds to cover revenue losses as well as to invest in projects in disinvested areas of town. Such investments will increase our quality of life from a community standpoint, which is very attractive to both existing businesses and those considering relocation or expansion to the region.

What is unique about the SA: Ready to Work program?

Last November, our voters approved by over 75% a reallocation of an existing sales tax for a workforce program that will kick off in early 2022. We’ll have $200 million over the five and a half or six years dedicated to this mission. We’re not trying to increase the level of educational attainment. What we’re trying to do is provide a system for all employers to align their workforce needs with the local education systems. There are a lot of workforce programs in the country but we have yet to find another program that begins and ends with the needs of the employers. Workforce programs produce graduates and then leave those graduates on their own to find a job. Whether you are an existing company or considering San Antonio, this program will prove a valuable tool. 

What plans does the city have for the local airport as San Antonio continues to grow?

We are likely to undergo a major expansion of our airport. We’re updating the FAA’s required 10-year master plan. The city has not followed through with these plans in the past. Not only from a business perspective but from a residential standpoint as well, people who travel deserve a better airport. This will be the largest capital project the city has ever done. It’ll make the $1.2 billion bond program look small. We have one of the best reputations in the country from a bond-rating perspective and are highly recognized for our financial management, so I have no doubt we’ll be able to implement this vision.

How is the city addressing affordable housing?

We are focused on revitalizing our affordable housing programs while maintaining our emergency housing initiatives. While we’ve seen an increase in the cost of home ownership and rent in San Antonio, we have deployed a number of tools to guarantee a degree of affordable housing, such as GAP financing and tax increment refinancing zones. We’ve also been focused on the preservation of existing housing stock. Sometimes, the cheapest way to keep people in housing is to keep them in their current home. We have $32 million in this year’s budget to help continue these programs.

What is your outlook for the city?

Given what we’ve done over the last couple of years to support large industry partners as well as the small-business community, I think we’re perfectly positioned. When we make the infrastructure improvements we have planned, that will lead to additional development, attraction and expansion of companies in this region. 

I can’t help but stress that the SA: Ready to Work program is a game changer for us. We have $200 million dedicated to training and employment for companies and they will take advantage of it. This program has the greatest potential to change the course of where we’re at from an economic standpoint as well as how we impact residents. We’re putting together a puzzle that other cities haven’t yet.

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