2 min read November 2021 —Despite the ongoing effects of the pandemic, San Antonio is ready to shine. By investing in its people and its infrastructure, Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of greater:SATX, a private-public nonprofit dedicated to growing quality jobs in the San Antonio, Texas region, told Invest: the area is poised to become an economic machine and a talent hub on an internationally competitive level.
What are some of the biggest highlights of the past year for greater:SATX?
We’ve been on a course of transforming our economy as well as our organization for the last two to three years. We are specifically at an inflection point where we’re staking our claim and aligning our investments like the seventh-largest city in the country should. Like any other community, we have some significant challenges that the pandemic exacerbated — poverty, educational attainment, and the digital divide with lack of broadband access. While we were aware of our challenges before, we did not necessarily have the burning platform. The pandemic further highlighted a lot of these challenges, and we now have the majority of the business leaders in this community and our public partners aligned in prioritizing the eradication of those challenges.
At the onset of the pandemic, we turned our attention away from outbound marketing and corporate recruitment, which is the majority of what we do, to support our local businesses. San Antonio ranked fourth in the country for jobs retained throughout the pandemic. Our community collectively invested through the reallocation of tax dollars in SA: Ready to Work, which includes workforce training and wraparound services for people whose jobs were impacted by the pandemic. We were hit extremely hard. Small businesses were hit the hardest but as a community, we are proud that we were able to support our small and large businesses, and our people.
What challenges and opportunities do you see stemming from the influx of business relocations from other regions?
There are a couple of different variables informing that. The first is in the remote work environment. As CEOs are contemplating where they grow both their real estate and hiring footprints, they’re looking at where their employees want to live. When you can live anywhere around the country and can work for top employers, why not live in San Antonio, where you can enjoy a great quality of life and keep more of your earnings? We have over 70 people relocating to San Antonio daily and that number will spike up in this new remote work environment.
We’re also seeing several CEOs looking at regional hubs or regional “centers of excellence” within the central Texas region. With a majority of their workforce in a hybrid setting, they are looking to places where they can establish regional nodes where employees can report into an office for team huddles or connect with their peers. That is a tremendous opportunity for us. We have the real estate and the talent to accommodate those types of operations. From a big picture viewpoint on corporate relocations, the state of Texas is on fire. That is due in large part to our business climate at the state level as well as our centrally located geography in North America. From our central time zone, 24/7 operations can service their customer base anywhere around the world. In San Antonio, we are also a low-seismic activity area, which is favorable to the installment of industrial manufacturing data centers. Beyond a favorable tax environment and geographic location, our greatest asset is our people, they are an unmatched talent. We have the workforce to support large-scale business growth.
What I am most proud of and most excited to see take hold is that we demographically represent the future of the state of Texas and the future of the United States. We already are a majority-minority community, about 60% Hispanic. We believe that the San Antonio region is the gateway emerging market for Hispanic talent. That is only going to make us more attractive as companies look at growing their talent base and prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations. It also provides a consumer understanding edge because if the future consumer of the country is the Hispanic consumer, we have that in San Antonio today.
What opportunities for development and tourism-related investment does the San Antonio market offer?
The tourism industry is significant here, representing over $15 billion of annual economic impact. Hospitality certainly matters because when we have CEOs in town or even young talent here, they are experiencing everything our city has to offer through our hospitality workers, from the Uber drivers who pick you up at the airport to the servers at your restaurant, or the bellman at your hotel. In my opinion, it is because of our prevalent Hispanic culture. Here in San Antonio, we are all family, all connected. During the pandemic, we had four new hotels and 30 net new restaurants open, and we expect that activity to continue. There is significant outside interest as it relates to investments, specifically out of California. If you talk to any real estate agent, even on the residential and commercial sides, there are a lot of people moving out of California. Investment dollars are also moving out of California. San Antonio is already the top Texas metro and No. 7 in the country as a migration destination. People are trying to find those next markets. Austin has exploded in the last couple of decades. San Antonio is next.
What is your outlook for economic growth and development in San Antonio over the next three to five years?
Now is our time. The next three to five years are going to get real for the San Antonio region. We have been investing in our people and our infrastructure. We’re going to see all that pay off. Our project pipeline and interest in investment, relocations, and expansions are only growing. We’re going to blow up beyond that timeline. Our priority lies in regional collaboration, partnering with surrounding counties and cities, like New Braunfels, Seguin, and Schertz, for example. The San Antonio region is an eight-county community and we are just beginning to collaborate on a regional scale to continue to win as a metro area. Beyond that, we are focused on collaboration and growth throughout the mega region between San Antonio, Austin, and down into Monterrey. If we are going to compete globally, it is going to be with that mega region coming together to punch at a higher weight. We have been formalizing partnerships with our regional partners and that broader mega region will be next.
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