The Chamber’s Board of Directors convened for June’s monthly Board of Directors meeting at the University of the Incarnate Word on Thursday, June 27. University President Thomas Evans greeted the attendees, thanking them for their presence and reiterating the strength and progress UIW has made as one of the premier private universities in San Antonio.
This board meeting had a very special guest, as newly re-elected Mayor Ron Nirenberg made an appearance and addressed the board. Nirenberg spoke of numerous successes in the city’s performance, including historic low unemployment, as well as outlining plans from city hall, such as property tax relief, his transportation initiative, and addressing the shortage of skilled and educated labor among city residents.
After the Mayor’s departure, Chamber President & CEO Richard Perez took his turn for his remarks, reserving his time to update Board Members on the looming implementation of the Paid Sick Leave ordinance as a result of the Texas Legislature being unsuccessful in passing legislation preempting municipalities from mandating certain employment benefits from private companies. The scheduled implementation date is August 1.
Richard’s second main topic for the board is the AlamoPROMISE, a coordinated effort by public and private partners in San Antonio to deliver a two-year community college education through the Alamo Community Colleges District to graduating high school seniors at no cost to the student. Richard is a member of the program’s Steering Committee. Chamber Vice President of Education and Workforce Development Lisa Marie Gomez walked the board through a high level “nuts and bolts” of the AlamoPROMISE as it stands right now. Similar programs have operated in Dallas and Tennessee. Alamo Colleges plans to roll out the new program in the coming months.
Leticia Van de Putte, partner with the advocacy firm Andrade – Van de Putte & Associates, delivered a summary of her firm’s efforts during the 86th Legislative Session on behalf of the Chamber. In total, the Chamber tracked 119 different bills during the session, and Chamber business members, Richard, and several Chamber VPs made numerous trips to Austin to testify on various pieces of legislation. While the Chamber was not successful with its top legislative priority (preempting Paid Sick Leave), the Chamber’s agenda succeeded in other areas of focus such as property tax reform, important changes to Military spouse certification/licensure reciprocity and public-school finance, to name a few. Van de Putte reiterated that the end of the legislative session does not mean the work is done, as funds appropriated from the state’s “rainy day fund” were some of the highest amounts in recent history, putting the state in a potentially difficult position in sustaining property tax relief and public school finance reform during the next legislative biennium. The Chamber will remain engaged as the dollars are spent and as the next legislative session begins to take shape in the coming months.
Chamber Vice President of Military Affairs and Leadership Development Lori Stinson spoke briefly of the state of the military in the city, most notably that the 24th and 25th Air Force, who represent the USAF’s cybersecurity and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance respectively, are expected to be deactivated and there will be an activation of a new numbered Air Force. The salient point of the presentation was that the mission will remain based in San Antonio. Rumors of the new entity moving to a new location had swirled in recent weeks and have proven to be utterly baseless.
Lastly, Chamber Vice President of Cybersecurity Amanda Keammerer updated board members on a letter sent to U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday, May 29, thanking him for the Executive Order creating the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition, which will extend cyber education to younger students and strengthen the workforce labor pool of cybersecurity professionals. As San Antonio is home to the second-largest concentration of such professionals, including the NSA and the aforementioned 24th Air Force, strengthening cybersecurity education and skills is a huge boost to the city’s already thriving industry. Our focus will remain on growing the Cybersecurity ecosystem in San Antonio for the long-term health of our nation and our city.