LSA Class 43 (better known as LSA 300) kicked off the year with its first class day focusing on Economic Development. The class explored what drives the economy of San Antonio. They also examined some of our city’s most significant economic engines, discovered how they have evolved over time, and learned about some of the most exciting events in San Antonio that support the economy in a sustainable way. You name it, we covered it!
The day began at the Tower of Americas, with Dr. Tom Tunstall, Senior Research Director at the Institute for Economic Development at UTSA, who gave a high-level overview of Economic Development from a broad perspective. Dr. Tunstall was followed by a panel moderated by Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran. Panelists included A.J. Rodriguez, Zachry Group’s Vice President of External Affairs; Romanita Matta-Barrera, Executive Director of SA Works; and Bill Shown, Managing Director for Silver Ventures, Inc. After identifying what Economic Development means around the nation and here in San Antonio, the class explored how one industry can impact many facets of development. Class members donned hard hats and took a tour of EPIcenter, the “Geekdom of Energy,” learning about the unique project and how it aims to transform many facets of our local economy.
The group enjoyed lunch at Casa Rio, one of the first restaurants built on the edge of the San Antonio River. For years after Robert Hugman orchestrated the development of the River Walk and prior to Hemisfair, many didn’t quite know what to do with this newly established “Venice of America.” Al Beyer decided to dig out his Commerce St. building basement for river access and started a small Tex-Mex cafe called Casa Rio. After a couple of years, he started utilizing gondolas, barges, and paddles boats to attract more customers. A decade or so later, Hemisfair helped catapult downtown development and continued building on what entrepreneurs like Al Beyer had envisioned. A 2014 study showed that 11.5 million people visit the River Walk annually. Of these, 9.3 million are from outside Bexar County. These visitors stimulate an overall economic impact of $3 billion and directly influence 21,000 San Antonio jobs. During lunch, we were joined by Congressman Hurd, who spoke on the impact that the technology industry and the military services have in our city, as well as the ways decisions at the federal level can complement our efforts in business and community.
Highlighting the military service component of our great city, the class next visited Ft. Sam Houston’s Historic Quadrangle and was hosted by Mr. Bob Naething, Deputy to the Commanding General, United States Army North, and Ms. Meg Reyes, Joint Base San Antonio’s Director of Community Initiatives, to discuss the military’s contributions to the development of a strong workforce, and why our military is a big part of San Antonio’s economy.
The final stop of the day was at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, where class members received an up close and personal account of this enormous special event in our great city. Additionally, Amy Shaw, Executive Director of the Fiesta San Antonio Commission, provided numbers and facts related to Fiesta and how events like Fiesta attract thousands of visitors annually. Speaker of the Texas House, Joe Straus, joined us to remind us that San Antonio is the shining star in Texas for attracting major events and provided some insight into the driving force behind San Antonio’s growth, which centers on our diverse culture and advocacy for and within of a variety of industries. We also enjoyed a panel visit with Rob Wilcall, the Spurs Coyote from 2000- 2016; Pat Frost, President of San Antonio-based Frost Bank and avid Chamber and Community supporter; and Jenny Carnes, Executive Director, 2018 NCAA Final Four Local Organizing Committee. The Panel discussed the role of the Stock Show and Rodeo, the Final Four, and a variety of key special events that highlights San Antonio as a go-to destination for travel and business.