San Antonio Is Ready for Its Moment
San Antonio is coming into its own.
Long overshadowed by its flashier Texas neighbors, San Antonio has quietly become an economic and population powerhouse. With a population of 1.48 million, it’s a large city and one of the fastest growing. In fact, from 2021-22 more people moved to San Antonio than anywhere in the country. The metro population is predicted to reach 3.8 million by 2040 — bigger than San Diego.
And it’s not just the population that’s booming. The San Antonio economy is strengthening and diversifying beyond its traditional base, attracting startups and established firms looking for a home where they can grow, succeed and be a part of a positive, welcoming metro. The longtime economic mainstays of military, tourism and service have now been joined by aerospace, bioscience, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing.
Surprised? It’s understandable. Texan stereotypes aside, we don’t like to brag. It’s not the San Antonio way.
For a community that is more than 300 years old, San Antonio finds itself well positioned to be the city of the future. The metro population is 56% Hispanic, one of the highest percentages in the country. Forty-two percent of the population is bilingual. Experts predict the rest of the United States will soon look like San Antonio, as it becomes majority-minority by 2045.
San Antonio can serve as a model for the rest of the country in how to blend cultures into something greater than the sum of its parts. Vibrant, accepting and surprising in its complexity, the region is made stronger and more adaptable through its diversity.
Of course, growth of the type San Antonio has seen doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t sustain itself. It takes businesses and leaders who are open to innovation and willing to take new approaches to address common problems.
We’re citing four best practices we believe are core to our moment.
#1 Foster a collaborative spirit
In order to thrive, a regional economy should be more than a collection of individual businesses and industries, each with its own agenda and priorities. The metro and its residents must have a sense of community, a shared responsibility for helping each other succeed, and a commitment to working for the greater good.
Greater San Antonio lives that ethos.
#2 Conduct decision-making with a dual lens: business + community
Greater San Antonio wants companies and professionals to not only move here, but to fully integrate themselves into the community and, in turn, invest in making it better for all.
A great example is Victory Capital, a global investment management firm, which moved its corporate headquarters from Cleveland to San Antonio in January 2020 in pursuit of a home that would allow it to grow. And it has – in 2022 it was named to the Fortune 100 Fastest-Growing Companies list for the second consecutive year.
In fact, the firm is so integrated into its new hometown that it is attaching its name to the Victory Capital Performance Center, the new 134,000-square-foot home to basketball operations for the San Antonio Spurs featuring some of the most advanced innovations in sports technology and performance.
We have so many other examples to share and will do so in the coming months.
#3 Deploy the Talent Pipeline Management® Framework
Like many Economic Development Organizations (EDOs), we are putting greater emphasis on fueling the talent pipeline to meet the needs of our current and future businesses across multiple sectors.
San Antonio needs skilled workers to fill positions in high-growth industries. While some of them will be transplants, it’s vital that the region develop its own talented and sustainable workforce.
The city showed its support for workforce development when voters in 2020 approved a $200 million investment in Ready to Work, a training, education and employment program deployed through a tax reallocation by the City of San Antonio.
SA WORX is the workforce development arm of our EDO. To fuel our workforce development needs, this team has deployed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM)® framework, which was first shared with EDOs and local workforce strategy teams across the nation in 2014. The framework is designed to help align local employer workforce needs with the local talent pipeline with a data-driven approach.
Our workforce development team was the first to successfully partner across our ecosystem to implement and rapidly scale the multiple-industry TPM model to develop a long-term strategy that’s critical to the growth and sustainability of the San Antonio region. The SA Worx team was able to support all five of our industry sectors representing thousands of jobs in high-growth industries including: technology/cybersecurity, manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, and construction/skilled trades. greater:SATX is the first team to scale implementation of the TPM framework in the first year to support five industries, operating industry-focused “collaboratives” with nearly 100 regional employers and trade associations.
#4 EDOs should think and act like a consumer brand
Companies and workers relocate for a number of reasons, and they choose their new city home on a variety of criteria. They don’t move to places they don’t know much about or that don’t appeal to them.
Greater San Antonio competes for talent and business with a lot of other metros, many of which also have sunshine and a low cost of living and may be better known.
Just like any other consumer purchase decision today, people and businesses shop for new cities, comparing their features and costs, checking online reviews and resources. And recognizable, positive brands sell things, whether it’s sneakers or metros.
San Antonio didn’t have a formalized brand. We needed a brand that showcased its differentiation while appealing to a range of audiences from business decision makers and professionals to tourists and conventioneers. While tremendous assets, we needed a brand that communicated our metro region is so much more than the Spurs, the River Walk and the Alamo.
So greater:SATX took the unprecedented step among EDOs of adopting a consumer brand approach for San Antonio. We think of the region as a “product” – evolving and bettering it as you would any consumer item. We call it placemaking.
We created a new positioning statement and tagline — Life Works Greater℠ in San Antonio – which has become a full-blown campaign. We mocked up ads and promotional materials and put them in front of the companies and people we wanted to reach. After seeing the campaign material, the audience was 26% more likely to consider the region as a place to live and work.
The Life Works Greater℠ in San Antonio campaign rolled out in late 2022 and continues throughout 2023. It includes digital advertising including display and retargeting ads, programmatic video, SEO and paid social media on LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as traditional outdoor and airport digital billboards. In its first six months the campaign performed above industry benchmarks on every digital channel and resulted in an increase in inquiries about corporate relocation, along with talented workforce moving here.
San Antonio is growing, but the unique mix of factors that make it so attractive – the heritage of military service, the majority Hispanic population, the rich blend of cultures, the feel of a small town in a big city, the welcoming vibe – will not change, regardless of how many people and businesses move here.
Maintaining that core DNA as we evolve and grow the “product” is focal to our evolving branding efforts.