Chamber Board of Directors convene at Trinity University for May meeting

With a spectacular view of the downtown skyline, Trinity University’s Skyline Room was the setting of our May Board Meeting last Thursday. Trinity President Danny Anderson welcomed Board Members and gave a brief history of Trinity, which is celebrating its 150-year anniversary this year, and explained Trinity’s tie to the Chamber. Trinity University was invited by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to move to San Antonio in 1941. When Trinity moved to the Alamo City, University officials formed strong relationships with the Chamber, and that connection continues today.

During his President’s Remarks, Chamber President and CEO Richard Perez introduced Principal Moises Ortiz, who leads Rhodes Middle School in the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD). Richard shadowed Moises during SAISD’s Principal for a Day event on May 21. Richard and Moises spent part of the day at Rhodes Middle School and part of the day at Lanier High School, where Moises will serve as Principal starting in August. Next, Richard called on the Chamber’s Interim VP of Cybersecurity Amanda Keammerer to give an update on the President’s Executive Order on America’s Cyber Workforce. Amanda reported that the San Antonio cyber community was drafting a letter to President Trump regarding the May 2 Executive Order on America’s Cybersecurity Workforce. Specifically, we were thrilled to see the creation of the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition. Our San Antonio community has the technical expertise to create, operate, and successfully launch this new competition by or before December 31, 2019. With more than 60 signatures in support of this executive order, we seek to be an active and engaged partner in the implementation of this Executive Order. (Note: the letter was mailed to President Trump on Wednesday, May 29.)

The Chamber’s Executive Vice President Dave Petersen gave un update on the Chamber’s robust and proactive Military Affairs efforts. Dave discussed the Texas National Guard top commander’s desire to bring the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter to San Antonio to replace the Guard’s aging F-16s. In addition, the Air Force is starting to look for a base to train pilots of foreign governments who are buying F-35s. Dave also talked about the Army Futures Command (AFC) and clarified that the San Antonio Chamber championed the way for Austin to become the hub of this historic Army Command. AFC will have responsibility for Army modernization efforts through eight cross-functional teams; linking operational concepts to requirements to acquisition to fielding. We are confident in the ability of our community, along with Austin to support the AFC. Dave also mentioned the U.S. Space Force as a potential asset for San Antonio and concluded his remarks by announcing that the 2020 Warrior Games will be held in the Alamo City.

Stephanie Reyes, Vice President of Public Policy,  provided an update on the ConnectSA Advisory Committee meeting she attended where options to fund implementation of the plan were discussed. ConnectSA is Mayor Nirenberg’s mobility plan to tackle congestion and consists of various multimodal strategies, including: 200 miles of sidewalk improvements; extended roadways; 40 miles of microbility lanes for bikes and scooters; leveraging technology to improve frequency and better reliability of the transit system; and an advanced rapid transit system, which is similar to a light rail system but a third of the cost. Stephanie highlighted that the two funding options requiring legislative action failed at the state, an increased $10 vehicle registration fee and a sales tax increase. She reported that the two most viable options being proposed by the ConnectSA Tri-chairs Henry Cisneros, Hope Andrade and Jane Macon are City and County bond programs principally dedicated to transportation and/or a transportation user fee. Our neighbors in Austin, who struggle with transportation issues just like we do, have passed similar initiatives. Chamber Vice President of Economic Development Belinda Garza Hartwig also provided a brief update on the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA). The Chamber is encouraging Speaker Pelosi to bring the USMCA to the House Floor for a vote before the August recess.

Operating Council Chair and Partner at RSM US Santos Fraga provided an update and summary of the Chamber’s financial position. The Chamber has a strong balance sheet and budget forecast for 2019. Overall, the Chamber is doing well financially.

Sophia Azoubel, Partnership Specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, presented an overview of the 2020 Census and discussed the Community Partnership and Engagement Program, that aims to:

  • Enroll community partners to increase participation in the 2020 Census,
  • Educate people about the Census,
  • Encourage community partners to motivate others and to self-respond, and
  • Engage grass roots organizations to reach out to hard to count areas.

The Census is important because it impacts:

  • Apportionment the numbers of seats each state gets in the House of Representatives is determined by population count results from the census
  • Distribution of billions of dollars are allocated based on population count
  • Drawing of congressional and state legislative districts, school districts and voting precincts
  • Enforcing voting rights and civil rights legislation
  • Informing planning decisions of state and local government
  • Informing  businesses (where to locate, size of market, etc.)

In 2020, new technology will make it easier than ever for individuals to respond to the Census. For the first time, you will be able to respond online, by phone, or by mail, and the Census Bureau will use data that the public has already provided to cut down on household visits. Sophia asked that businesses can help by appointing a census liaison at their company, encouraging employees to respond, and promote the census through communication channels. She also reminded the Board that the census is easy, safe, and important! Board member Mike Karageorge, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for SWBC Insurance Services, added that SWBC Co-founder and Chairman Charlie Amato is serving on the Business for the 2020 Census Task Force, which is an invitation-only network of executives from major corporations, national trade associations, and national business membership organizations, spanning a range of industries. The Task Force demonstrates the importance of a complete count in 2020 for businesses and the economy.

Finally, Stephanie Reyes, VP of Public Policy presented an update on the 86th Legislative Session. Click here to see a summary of the Session.

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