Our March Board Meeting was hosted by RSM US, an audit, tax, and consulting firm, at their new and impressive offices off of Redland Road. RSM US Partner and Operating Council Chair Santos Fraga welcomed board members and gave a brief history of the firm. Chamber President and CEO Richard Perez kicked off the meeting with his President’s report, where he introduced two new Chamber Principal Staff members: Dyan Warrenburg, Vice President of Membership Development, and Joe Kampa, Vice President of Member Retention and Engagement. The addition of Dyan and Joe will allow the Chamber to have an enhanced focus on bringing in new member investors and focus resources on engaging not only new members, but current members through active participation in our Councils, Committees, and myriad of events. The goal is to better connect our members with the Chamber.
The rest of Richard’s report was focused on the San Antonio Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), which sparked candid and robust dialogue that will be instrumental in our efforts going forward. Chamber Chair and President and CEO of CPS Energy Paula Gold Williams explained that because of her role at CPS Energy, she will recuse herself from any votes associated with the Chamber taking a position on the plan. She will, however, act as an expert resource on the provision of energy to our community and alternative energy, in addition to providing her input on CPS Energy’s role in relation to CAAP. The Chamber is concerned that the CAAP does not address how we – as a city – are going to pay for the cost of being carbon neutral by 2050 and deal with the mitigation strategies outlined in the plan. He closed his presentation on the CAAP by answering various Board Member questions and urging them to provide their input to City Council by the public comment deadline on March 26, so that our business voice is heard loud and clear on our concerns. Richard also briefly discussed the Chamber’s Association Health Plan, which is starting to gain momentum. The plan allows small to medium Chamber member businesses to band together to obtain quality, affordable health coverage at up to a 15% savings.
Chamber Vice President of Public Policy Stephanie Reyes presented information about a letter of support for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant Application for an I-35 Expansion and Community Access Improvements Project. The INFRA grant is funding made available by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) for projects that address critical issues facing our nation’s highways and bridges. The $1.006 billion project will improve mobility in the I-35 corridor by adding 3 additional lanes in each direction between I-410 North & FM 3009, as well as improvements between FM 3009 and FM 1103, including ramp, frontage road, overpass and intersection improvements. TXDOT will be applying for a $154 million grant to offset the total project. The I-35 Corridor is more than an interstate highway – it is one of the state’s primary freight and passenger vehicle corridors, facilitating national and international freight movement, as well as the primary artery serving commuters in major metropolitan cities like San Antonio and hundreds of smaller suburban communities and rural towns. I-35 is an economic engine for the state’s economy, and the project is expected to have significant positive community impacts in Bexar, Comal and Guadalupe Counties. The express lanes will allow for improved commuting times between suburban residential areas and central San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston and Randolph Air Force Base. VIA Metropolitan Transit buses will also use the new HOV lanes, creating an express route to employment centers along the I-410 corridor. Improving air quality in the San Antonio region has become a priority, so reducing congestion means fewer emissions and cleaner air.
Lisa Marie Gomez, Vice President of Education and Workforce Development, and Belinda Hartwig, Vice President of Economic Development, gave an overview of the Chamber’s selection to participate in the Gateways for Growth (G4G) challenge. G4G is nationally competitive opportunity for cities to get tailored research on the economic impact and contributions of immigrants and receive direct technical assistance in designing a community-informed collaborative plan that ensures San Antonio is a welcoming place where immigrants have pathways to integrate and fully participate in our city’s economic growth. The Chamber was also selected to received matching grant funds to support the development and launch of the plan. For more information about Gateways for Growth, visit: http://gatewaysforgrowth.org/
In anticipation of the Chamber’s 125th Anniversary in December of this year, Julie Ring, Vice President of Image and Communications, presented the Chamber’s 125th Year Anniversary Logo and Marketing Plan. The plan was well-received and will launch in June 2019 and continue through June 2020. The marketing plan is designed to build energy, awareness, and momentum around the organization and our accomplishments and to pay tribute to our loyal members.
Finally, Belinda Hartwig presented a quick recap of our recent and extremely successful SA to DC trip. The 41st annual SA to DC broke the 2018 record of attendees, with 185 business and community leaders advocating for the top legislative priorities for San Antonio. In the two days, the twelve issue teams held more than 100 meetings with Congress and federal agencies, and heard from government leaders on issues such as trade, transportation, immigration, and cybersecurity. The aforementioned INFRA grant for which TXDOT is applying is a direct result of our joint advocacy in DC.