A record number of San Antonio civic and business leaders headed to the State Capitol this week to meet with legislators as part of VIVA San Antonio 2019, presented by AT&T. More than 150 attendees made their way up to Austin, many traveling on buses provided by the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG). J.D. Salinas, Vice President of External Affairs for AT&T, chaired this year’s event and themed VIVA San Antonio 2019 “An Entrepreneurial City,” to showcase how startups have played an important role in contributing to San Antonio’s local economy, especially in the emerging cyber and technology industries.
This year’s event was a full-day, starting with an early morning at the beautiful VIA Stone Oak Park and Ride. Once in Austin, the program began with a keynote panel titled “Texas: The Hub for Innovation, National Security, and Partnerships”, featuring experts from the Texas legislature, academia, and the private sector. Panelists included:
- Giovanni Capriglione (TX-98);
- Ina Minjarez (TX-124);
- Roger Thornton, Vice President of Products and Technology for AT&T Cybersecurity;
- Greg White, Director for the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security for UTSA; and
- Paul Williams, Deputy Chief Security Officer and Chief Security Architect for Rackspace.
Moderated by Will Garrett, Vice President and Director of Cybersecurity Development for Port San Antonio, speakers discussed how partnerships are critical to national security, where they see innovation clusters in their work, and what needs to be done to secure infrastructure in the Lone Star State.
Attendees then joined their issue teams and headed to the State Capitol. More than 90 meetings were set with legislators and their staff as well as with key agencies. Senator Jose Menendez (TX-124) presented a resolution on the Senate Floor with each of our partner Chambers’ leadership by his side. Over on the House side, Dean of the Delegation, Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer (TX-116) also presented a resolution and invited J.D. Salinas, San Antonio Chamber President and CEO Richard Perez, President of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber Diane Sanchez, and Leticia Peña-Martinez, Vice President of Advocacy & Business Development, for the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to join him on the House floor.
Governor Greg Abbott invited representatives from each of the Chambers’ leadership as well as Gold Sponsor representatives from CPS Energy and AACOG to join him for brief remarks and a photo. Many of the legislators in the San Antonio delegation also joined the meeting.
Panel discussions took place in the afternoon, where attendees heard from legislators, state-wide non-profit organizations, state agencies and the private sector.
The first panel, “Keeping San Antonio Competitive” was moderated by Andres Alcantar, Chief Operations Officer for the Texas Association of Business and featured:
- Donna Campbell (TX-25);
- Chairman Rafael Anchia (TX-103);
- Dale Craymer, President of the Texas Taxpayers & Research Association; and
- Commissioner Julian Alvarez, III of the Texas Workforce Commission.
Panelists discussed Paid Sick Leave legislation, reauthorization of Chapter 312, efforts to support workforce development and actions the legislature can take this session to make sure Texas and San Antonio remain competitive.
The second panel titled “Public School Finance and Property Tax Reform” was moderated by Lisa Marie Gomez, Vice President of Education and Workforce Development for the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and featured
- Steve Allison (TX-121);
- Sagar Desai, Chief Operating Officer for Commit Partnership; and
- Bob Popinski, Director of Policy for Raise Your Hand Texas.
Much of the discussion focused on House Bill 3, the House’s school finance bill that updates how Texas funds public schools and provides meaningful property tax relief.
Attendees then heard brief remarks from Chairman Trey Martinéz Fischer (TX-26) and Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (TX-120). Both Legislators discussed legislation they were filing or championing to support the San Antonio business community.
The program closed with a panel discussion on Transportation and Infrastructure. Moderated by Jonathan Gurwitz, Vice President for KGBTexas, panelists included:
- Mark Williams, Deputy Executive Director for the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT);
- Ivan Jaime, Senior Director of Public Affairs for Union Pacific; and
- Former Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte
The panel touched on the gap in transportation funding state-wide, Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) funding, and the possibility of a gas tax.
Before heading back to San Antonio, attendees celebrated a productive day at a Legislative Reception where Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Senator José Menendéz made brief remarks highlighting San Antonio as an economic driver for the State of Texas.
Your Chamber would like to thank all of our VIVA San Antonio 2019 sponsors who made the event a huge success: Alamo Area Council of Governments; CPS Energy; Coca Cola Southwest Beverages; Union Pacific; Valero; VIA Metropolitan Transit; Boeing; Dannenbaum Engineering; Merge; Rackspace; Port San Antonio; Spurs Sports and Entertainment; True Flavors; Vulcan Materials; and Zachry Corp.
For more information about the Chamber’s state legislative priorities, click here.