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Target Industry Development Helps San Antonio Defy Economic Odds

Chairman & President POV
by David McGee, Chairman and Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, President & CEO

A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas warned that after strong growth and job creation in 2018, the U.S. economy in 2019 is expected to slow but remain healthy. A recent global survey of CEOs and other C-Suite executives by the Conference Board identified a recession as their number one concern for 2019, compared with their 19th concern in 2018.

There’s an abundance of economic pessimism at the global, national and even state levels. However when it comes to economic growth and jobs, there’s good reason for optimism here in San Antonio.

In our respective roles as board chair and president and CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF), we are routinely engaged in discussions with corporate CEOs about moving to San Antonio or expanding operations that are already here. Based on those discussions, we know that while 2018 was a strong year for San Antonio, we faced some serious headwinds.

Many business leaders held off making decisions on new investments or expansions in 2018 because of concerns about the future of NAFTA, rising tariffs and the potential for a global trade war. Nevertheless, last year SAEDF recruitment efforts garnered approximately 4,500 new jobs from 20 projects. That was down slightly from the 5,200 jobs we brought in from 17 projects in 2017, but still among the highest results on record for SAEDF and the community. This is a sign of our local economy’s resiliency and our community’s attractiveness among young professionals, families, and c-suite executives alike to live and work.

That strong job growth has continued into 2019. Two months in, we have already added more than 1,000 new jobs and are well on our way to reach our annual target for jobs this year.

As important as the number, however, are the industries in which we are recruiting these new jobs. In 2018, approximately 70 percent of jobs added from SAEDF projects were in target industries of cybersecurity, information technology, biosciences and advanced manufacturing as well as executive or new headquarters locations. This is up from 20 percent the year prior.

These are high-paying, highly-skilled jobs that are resistant to another trend eating away at job creation in other parts of the country – automation. As successful as the past two years have been in our targeted sectors, we have a robust pipeline for 2019. Of those prospects, over 85 percent are within our target industries.

Meanwhile in 2018, SAEDF completed an internal alignment that formalized partnerships with regional economic development entities and integrated the Free Trade Alliance (FTA) into the SAEDF structure, unifying our city’s approach to international business development. FTA joins SA Works, our workforce development arm, in creating a truly strategic approach to economic development.

As our economy and businesses rapidly evolve, SA Works plays an increasingly critical role in ensuring that individuals have the right skills to succeed. Especially in a tight labor market, it is essential that we continue SA Works’ goal of aligning workforce development in San Antonio with the high-paying jobs of the future.

San Antonio isn’t immune from national and global economic forces and trends. If an economic slowdown does occur in 2019, it will certainly be felt here in San Antonio. However, by following a strategic plan for economic development that focuses on our target industries, working with our regional partners and coordinating our international and workforce development efforts with that plan, we are developing a local economy that is not only strong but that is also resilient.

Return to EcoDevo 360 - Issue 60