Regional Partner Highlight: City of San Antonio Economic Development Department
greater:SATX visited with staff from the City of San Antonio Economic Development Department (EDD), a key regional partner and collaborator with greater:SATX.
Tell us a little about the City of San Antonio?
San Antonio is a vibrant city with a thriving economy, deep cultural heritage, and unique communities that are compassionate, inclusive, and proudly diverse. The city has cemented itself in the story of Texas and the United States and offers several unparalleled cultural and historical experiences.
As the seventh largest city in the United States, San Antonio is one of the strongest fiscally managed cities in the country and a city that nurtures entrepreneurship, encourages investment, and supports growth and development. Through the City’s Economic Development Department (EDD) and the Strategic Framework finalized in 2022, EDD supports community partnerships and growth opportunities in aerospace, bioscience, cybersecurity, green technologies, healthcare, and information technology.
The City’s Economic Development Department (EDD) offers programming and resources to support the business ecosystem in San Antonio. Through key initiatives and strategic partnerships, EDD assists both current and future businesses by providing services and support that result in a stronger and more equitable San Antonio for all.
EDD’s focus is on fostering economic growth through collaboration and innovation. EDD has four distinct, yet interconnected divisions: Administration and Operations, Industry, Small Business, and Global Engagement. The Department is led by our Director, Brenda Hicks-Sorensen. Each of our divisions play a critical role in growing San Antonio’s economy.
The Industry Division oversees the creation and implementation of strategic policies and programs. The Industry team also manages the administration of the City’s economic development incentive programs, all of which position San Antonio as a key market for industrial investment.
Industry staff focus on several Strategic Industries, including information technology and cybersecurity, healthcare and biosciences, mobility, sustainable energy, and corporate services. These Strategic Industries build on San Antonio’s existing strengths, offer some of the highest-paying jobs in the country, and drive an ever-evolving, 21st-century economy.
San Antonio and Bexar County are home to approximately 34,000 small businesses as well. To support the creation and growth of small businesses and promote their success, EDD’s Small Business Division has implemented various programs and initiatives that assist all types of business owners, whether they are at the ideation, startup, or growth phase. These programs focus on providing access to capital, business consulting, education, mentorship, and expanding opportunities for small, minority, and women-owned (S/M/WBE) businesses. During the City’s 2022 fiscal year alone, the Small Business Economic Development Advocacy (SBEDA) Program supported $290 million in city spending with S/M/WBEs. Since the implementation of a revised SBEDA Program in 2010, S/M/WBE participation on City contracts has grown from 13% to 47%.
EDD’s Global Engagement Division plans and orchestrates many inbound and outbound initiatives focused on prioritizing metros across the globe for investment, expanding San Antonio residents’ access to the world, and elevating San Antonio’s reputation globally. Our city’s international strategy is a multi-faceted approach that includes business, diplomacy, culture, and education. The Global Engagement team provides lead City support for trade missions and international delegations, and also manages a highly successful and internationally recognized Sister Cities program.
Finally, Administration and Operations aids all EDD divisions to support success across the department. This unit consists of several teams, including Fiscal, Marketing and Communications, and Research & Intelligence.
If you could highlight one major statistic or project, what would it be?
EDD manages several nationally recognized and best-practice programs across its four divisions. Of the four EDD divisions, the Industry Division works the closest and most regularly with greater:SATX.
Following updates to the City’s Chapter 380 Economic Development Policy in 2022, the Industry team developed and implemented three Growth Stage Pilot Programs. These programs included a Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Matching Grant Program, a SBIR/STTR Phase 0 Grant Program, and a Second Stage Grant Program.
The SBIR/STTR Matching Grant and Phase 0 Grant Programs are for local businesses that are planning to pursue SSBIR/STTR grants from the federal government, or who have already received Phase I or Phase II SBIR/STTR grants. The SBIR/STTR Matching Grant Program will support federal awardees with matching funds up to $50,000 for Phase I grantees, and up to $75,000 for Phase II grantees. The Phase 0 SBIR/STTR Grant Program was designed to award up to five, $2,000 grants to assist companies in costs related to preparing for a Phase I federal grant submittal.
The Second Stage Grant Program was designed to support export-oriented small businesses that have moved beyond the start-up phase and have a concrete plan for growth, but have not yet reached maturity. The Edward Lowe Foundation defines “second stage companies” as those with 10 to 99 employees and between $1 million and $50 million in annual revenue. EDD’s Second Stage Grant Program offers up to $50,000 per eligible company that apply and are approved.
In total, the City allocated $1 million dollars to the three programs. Overall, City staff has received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the program from partners in the private and public sectors, as well as in academia. The significantly positive feedback received from the community about the pilot programs and the strong applications submitted illustrate the ongoing need for such programs and emphasized the demand for similar support structures moving forward.
What makes your community a great place for people and jobs?
San Antonio is a community rich in history and culture. The city has an abundant arts and culinary scene, cultural attractions, and festivals making it an exciting place to live and a popular destination for students, tourists, and artists looking for a versatile and dynamic place to study, live, work, and play.
Mark Twain famously said that San Antonio was one of four unique cities in America, along with Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco. That uniqueness and depth of culture and history continues today. San Antonio is a welcoming community that combines relatively affordable housing with a variety of amenities and entertainment options. The famed Riverwalk and Alamo are the top tourist attractions in Texas, and our historic missions are a designated World Heritage Site – the first and only in Texas.
The local economy is driven by several strong industries, including, aerospace, bioscience, cybersecurity, and healthcare, as well as the significant presence of military missions across Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA), the nation’s largest joint base. From military medicine to research and development (R&D), the regional economy provides residents with a wide variety of employment opportunities.
A robust higher education and training network anchored by the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) offers residents accessible options for postsecondary education leading to higher paying careers. With over 160,000 students at over 20 different colleges, universities, and research institutions in 50-mile radius, San Antonio offers many educational options.
The City of San Antonio is investing in our people and place. The $200 Million Ready to Work program has already resulted in 4,600 residents that have either completed training or are currently training for careers in healthcare, IT, advanced manufacturing, and construction trades, just to name a few. In 2022, voters approved a $150 million Affordable Housing Bond to create and preserve affordable housing in five priority categories, and the FY 2024 budget includes another $42.2 million toward Affordable Housing initiatives and provides a direct investment of $31.5 million to implement various strategies to address homelessness. Growth at the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) is also expanding options for San Antonio and regional residents. The City is committed to expanding route options and has added a number of new national and international routes. Expanded facilities through investments in existing terminals and the addition of new terminals in the future are also adding options for air travel into and out of San Antonio.
Overall, San Antonio has much to offer, no matter the interest or goal, and provides a welcoming environment and an abundance of opportunities that make it a great place for employment opportunities and quality of life. Learn more about the City of San Antonio EDD here.