Our December Board meeting was hosted on Wednesday by UT Health San Antonio at the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute. UT Health San Antonio President Dr. William Henrich provided a warm welcome to Board members and shared information about the impressive work being done by the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute’s 21 investigators who are focused on childhood cancer research. One of only two institutes in the United States dedicated solely to pediatric cancer research, the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute has developed more innovative therapies in national trials than any other group in the US.
Peter John Holt, CEO of HoltCAT and member of the SA Works Advisory Council, provided an update on SA Works. SA Works launched in 2015 aiming to focus resources on a novel program that provides hands-on, experiential learning opportunities to area high school students in order to build professional development skills, expose them to the wealth of career opportunities in San Antonio, and enable employers to take an active role in cultivating the next generation of talent. The initiative, originally incubated at the Chamber, was transferred to the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation in 2016, in order to align the city’s extensive business attraction and retention work with timely workforce development efforts. The mission of SA Works is to be an industry-led organization that is a connector between education providers and employers. Peter asked Board Members to contact Romanita Matta-Barrera at SA Works and find out how they can engage in the program to help fill the gap between open jobs and students who want meaningful employment.
Public Policy Council Chair Tyler Lowe, Manager of Community & Government Relations, Southwest & Mountain West Divisions for Vulcan Materials Company, presented the Chamber’s Federal Agenda. In early August, the Public Policy Council sent out a call to Chamber members asking them to identify their federal priorities. The Chamber’s Council and Committees collected priorities from our members and worked with the Legislative Advisory Council and the Public Policy Council to finalize new priorities and bring forth priorities from 2019 that had not yet been achieved. The Board unanimously approved the 2020 Federal Legislative Agenda, and SA to DC issue teams will now work to develop white papers for each of the legislative priorities in preparation for the trip.
SA to DC 2020 Chair Taylor Dawson, Vice President of Land Development for Pape-Dawson Engineers, reminded the Board that the SA to DC 2020 trip is February 3 – 6. It is not too late to join the growing number of participants in advocating on behalf of the needs of San Antonio. Register today.
The Chamber’s Executive Vice President Dave Petersen briefed the Board on the 2020 proposed balanced budget. The two largest drivers of revenue are membership and special events. Because of a shift in strategy from membership campaigns that we have done in the past to using a new sales process and building more enduring and lasting memberships, we are expecting a strong year in membership. We are also planning meaningful and impactful events for 2020 to drive special events revenue. On the expense side, the biggest drivers are salaries and benefits. The Board unanimously adopted the budget.
During his President’s Report, Chamber President and CEO Richard Perez gave an update on the City’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. District Judge Peter Sakai issued a temporary injunction in November that blocked the December 1, 2019, implementation of the ordinance while the court case proceeds. Richard believes that the City will likely appeal the Judge’s decision, so our assistance in raising money to support the multiple business groups who are suing the city continues. We are still hopeful that the Texas Supreme Court will hear the case. He continued with an update on USMCA, which was passed in the House on 12/19. It will now go to the Senate for a vote but not until after the first of the year. Additionally, Richard mentioned that he was part of a group of business leaders who interviewed five candidates for the Aviation Director position. He shared that the top candidate has tremendous experience and is ready to execute an exciting vision to take our airport to the next level. (Note: On Thursday, Jesus Saenz, Chief Operating Officer for the Houston Airport System, was announced as the City of San Antonio’s incoming Aviation Director, effective February 1st).
Richard also provided an update on Binding Arbitration between the Fire Fighters Union and the City of San Antonio. Two weeks of binding arbitration arguments on both sides concluded this week and he feels confident that the arbitration case presented to the arbitrators is extremely strong, and that a good outcome will be had. A decision should come by the end of January.
Richard also touched on transportation funding and the Mayor and County Judge’s plan to shift the 1/8 cent sales tax that we pay to protect the Aquifer to expand the service that VIA provides. The plan is moving forward in a good way, and our Transportation Committee and Public Policy Council are developing a position for the Board to consider early next year. Finally, Richard announced that the Chamber offices will be closed from December 24 – January 2 for the Christmas and New Year holidays.