Our April Board Meeting was hosted by SeaWorld, and Board Members were excited to learn about some of the exciting new additions happening at the park. Carl Lum, President of SeaWorld San Antonio, welcomed Board Members and talked about three new attractions that will open on May 3, 2019 – Turtle Reef, a new attraction that will enable guests to get an up-close look at endangered and rescued sea turtles; Riptide Rescue, a ride where guests will set out on their own sea turtle rescue mission aboard a classic exciting spinner ride; and Sea Swinger, a pendulum ride that will swing guests 180 degrees in both directions with amazing views of the park and a real thrill for all who ride. He also mentioned the 5th Annual Seven Seas Food Festival, which runs until May 27, 2019.
During his President’s Remarks, Chamber President and CEO Richard Perez spoke about MILCON and the possibility of the President diverting military construction funding to build a border wall. The money for San Antonio is not expected to be re-directed, and our projects, which include a new traffic control tower at Kelley and a dining hall at Camp Bullis, appear to be safe. He also gave an update on the San Antonio Climate Action and Adaptation (CAAP) plan, stating that the Chamber’s economic impact study has been completed, and the City Council vote has been pushed to November. Richard thanked everyone who wrote letters or made calls to the Mayor and City Council expressing their concerns with the CAAP. Richard also mentioned that the Chamber is partnering with KLRN for the final Mayoral debate on May 2 from 7 – 8 p.m. at the KLRN studios. Following the debate, a panel of experts will offer analysis of what they heard.
Chamber Executive Vice President Dave Petersen updated board members on the status of the Association Health Plan. Despite legal challenges against the Labor Department’s 2018 rule expanding access to association health plans, the Chamber is continuing to offer and market the Texas Association Health Plan, which offers small businesses with between two and 50 employees the opportunity to band together to negotiate better premiums for their employees. Currently, the Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Schertz-Cibolo-Selma area Chamber are affiliated with us and offering the plan to their members, and we have two active members utilizing the plan – the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE).
Chamber Vice President of Education and Workforce Development Lisa Marie Gomez and Vice President of Economic Development Belinda Garza Hartwig gave a brief update on the Gateways for Growth Initiative, which provides our community with tailored research, direct technical assistance, and matching grants from New American Economy and Welcoming America to develop concrete strategies to integrate immigrants, foster economic growth, and promote inclusion for all residents. The Chamber and the City of San Antonio will host a presentation on the economic impact of immigrants on our community followed by a discussion by a panel of local experts on May 7, 2019, from 9:45 a.m. – 11 a.m. at LaunchSA at the San Antonio Central Library (600 Soledad Street).
Operating Council Chair Santos Fraga, Partner with RSM US, introduced Randy Walker, Managing Partner of Randy Walker & Company, P.C., who presented a clean audit. The audit was unanimously approved.
With fewer than five weeks left in the Texas 86th legislative session, the Chamber’s Vice President of Public Policy Stephanie Reyes provided an update on the Chamber’s top six legislative priorities, including the status of paid sick leave preemption bills, school finance, and property tax reform. She discussed the progress of passing the state budget, a process moving along much quicker than in past sessions. She highlighted that the conferees, appointed in both the House and the Senate will begin meeting behind closed doors to resolve their differences to produce a single bill reflecting the wishes of both bodies. Stephanie also touched on other key bills your Chamber has been tracking closely, including funding for the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant Program (DEAAG), transportation, and Tuition Revenue Bonds. Click here for a copy of the presentation.
The Chamber’s VP of Economic Development Belinda Garza Hartwig provided a draft report from SA to DC issue teams including highlights for our community. Of note, the City of San Antonio received $3.25 million from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) to address local needs to prevent, protect against, mitigate and respond to acts of terrorism. This was a direct result of our joint federal advocacy this year. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement also has traction, since a report issued to Congress last week indicated the agreement would have a positive impact to American jobs and the economy. We are intensifying our outreach to Congress in our efforts to see the trade agreement passed this year.
Finally, Chamber Chair and President and CEO of CPS Energy Paula Gold-Williams gave a shout out to Acting VP of Cybersecurity for the Chamber Amanda Keammerer and members of the Chamber staff who helped coordinate an extremely successful Fiesta Tech Trek on Tuesday evening. Tech Trek, which celebrated its third year, gives Fiesta-goers an opportunity to talk to tech companies, check out co-working spaces, and get the inside-scoop on the tech industry in San Antonio.