SA, Austin align as Abbott warns of brewing economic battle

The new partnership will work to secure legislative help that can boost what many see as an emerging mega region.

A pair of Texas’ more powerful economic development groups, greater:SATX, and Opportunity Austin, are teaming to ensure that what some have dubbed an emerging megaregion remains an attractive landing spot for companies in the U.S. and abroad looking to relocate or expand.

The organizations have formalized a partnership that will work to advance legislative priorities leaders in both cities deem critical to improving and expanding corporate recruitment and job creation as more states are offering up huge enticements to lock in major wins.

“We have finally gotten past the smokescreen, the illusion of collaboration,” greater:SATX Chairman Randy Smith said. “To really formalize this in a concerted effort where our teams are in the same boat, rowing in the same direction, that’s a big milestone.”

As San Antonio and Austin continue to experience significant growth, both cities have a mutually vested interest in multiple factors key to future economic expansion, including legislative support for incentives, infrastructure and workforce development.

They also have a joint concern about the sunset of one of Texas’ chief economic incentives tools, Chapter 313. In fact, confirmation of the new alliance comes less than a week after Gov. Greg Abbott fired a warning shot in San Antonio, telling a roomful of business leaders that, despite its strengths, Texas has lost out on some “extraordinarily meaningful economic development projects.”

Leaders with greater:SATX and Opportunity Austin note that, over the last two decades, the groups have collectively helped secure more than 185,000 jobs for the San Antonio and Austin metro areas by leveraging such incentives. 

“The San Antonio-Austin megaregion … is one of the most dynamic employment corridors in the world. We’ve got to continue to lean into that,” greater:SATX President and CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera said. “Not only are we trying to be made whole with some sort of replacement on the 313 side, but we should be thinking even more creatively. We can’t be complacent.”

There is a potential replacement for 313. State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, has filed House Bill 5, also known as the Texas Jobs and Security Act, that would funnel incentives targeting the recruitment of large-scale, capital-intensive projects in multiple sectors including manufacturing, national security and energy infrastructure industries. 

“There is no question we can recite a litany of wins that we’ve had in Texas. But guess what, we could also recite a long list of losses that we’ve suffered,” Opportunity Austin Chairman Gary Farmer said. “If we want to be the epicenter for advanced manufacturing, new technologies and creative thought … then we need to get behind and pass legislation that will make us competitive again.”

Farmer notes that, while greater:SATX and Opportunity Austin have been partners in spirit, their formal alignment is a critical step.

“It’s going to send a very powerful message to state leadership, area legislators and, really, the body politic,” he said.

As much as San Antonio and Austin have competed for companies and jobs, there are significant economic ties already. The overarching mission for the partnership, according to Smith, is to make sure that this emerging megaregion remains economically attractive.

“This partnership is focused on advocacy at the state level to make sure that we remain competitive,” Smith said. “The rest of the country is not sitting still.”


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