Our January Board of Directors meeting was held yesterday at the Geekdom Event Center and hosted by local cybersecurity company Jungle Disk. Bret Piatt, Chamber Board member and CEO of Jungle Disk, welcomed board members and provided a short presentation on the Decade of Downtown, focusing on the growth of the tech sector in San Antonio’s urban core, which has lead to a burgeoning and astounding downtown Tech District.
The Chamber’s 2020 Chair of the Board Adam Hamilton, President and CEO of Southwest Research Institute, opened his first board meeting to a standing-room-only crowd by welcoming his leadership team, new board members, and special guests.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg provided an update on the transportation initiative ConnectSA, which was developed to tackle San Antonio’s long-term transportation goals. The Mayor thanked ConnectSA tri-chairs Henry Cisneros, Hope Andrade, and Jane Macon and discussed his plan to redirect the 1/8-cent sales tax that pays for aquifer protection to public transportation. He emphasized that San Antonio must address transportation issues as the city continues to grow and prepare for an influx of one million more people in the next 20 years and explained that San Antonio Water System (SAWS) is working on a solution to continue the Aquifer protection program. Finally, he asked business leaders for their support in sharing the message about why the funding is a necessity for our growing city. Following the Mayor’s presentation, the Chamber’s President and CEO Richard Perez said that the Chamber will be thoroughly reviewing the Mayor’s proposal over the next 60 days and will prepare a prepare a position statement to be taken to the board in the March or April timeframe.
Next, Richard mentioned that the Chamber’s Public Policy Council and Infrastructure Committee held a joint meeting this week and had an excellent presentation from SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente on the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program. There was a consensus at the meeting that we need to protect San Antonio’s largest water source, although we are not yet ready to take a position. We will invite more subject matter experts to the next meeting to answer questions and provide more information that will facilitate us taking action.
Taylor Dawson, Vice President of Pape Dawson Engineers and SA to DC 2020 Chair, gave a brief update on the SA to DC trip, which is February 3 – 6, 2020. Currently there are 175 people signed up to join the attend Washington D.C. fly in to advocate for the needs of our great city and its residents. It is not too late to register or sponsor the trip, and you can get more information here.
The Chamber’s Vice President of Public Policy Stephanie Reyes shared an update on the 2020 Census. Information from the Census drives decisions that affect business growth, social services, government representation, and more. The Chamber recently launched a website to provide the business community with the tools it needs to educate their workforce and customers on the importance of the Census and to encourage everyone within their networks to complete the Census. The Chamber is challenging the business community to use creative ways to ensure we get a complete count. For more information on the Chamber’s Census website, visit completecountsa.com.
The Chamber’s Executive Vice President Dave Petersen presented an update on Military Affairs. The JBSA Compatible Use Program, formerly the Joint Land Use Study, which studies installations and surrounding areas to ensure we understand what we can do to mitigate concerns and support the missions, is happening right now and the Kelly Field Comprehensive Plan is getting ready to kick off. Interested organizations or individuals should contact Lori Stinson, VP Military Affairs and Leadership Development, for more information. The Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant application process is open through February 28. There is $15 million available for this round of grants, which are designed to assist defense communities, and there is an application in the works for electrical substation upgrades and burying utilities in clear zones around the bases. The Texas Military Summit was held last week in Austin, and Lori Stinson attended for the Chamber. Of specific interest is the new Texas Veterans App, which includes a direct link to the Veterans Crisis Line, Women Veteran Programs, a map to locate services, and other online resources. During the summit, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation rolled out their plan to execute SB 1200 – and how they will accommodate veterans and spouses in expediting their licensing needs. Last week, the Commander-in-Chief Installation of Excellence Award survey team visited San Antonio, and the Chamber hosted them for a reception. As a finalist, JBSA will receive $750,000 and could gain a total of $1.25 million for quality of life and innovation projects throughout JBSA if we “win”. (Read More) The Association of Defense Communities Installation Innovation Forum will be held in San Antonio from Feb. 10-12. We will be sponsoring a Military City USA reception on the evening of Feb. 10 to welcome the conference attendees and local military supporters at the Alamo. We are continuing advocacy with the F16FTU mission and have added the issue to our Federal Agenda. Finally, the Mayor and City staff visited D.C. a few weeks ago, and we learned that there is the possibility of the Army being the executive agent for future DoD Warrior Games and an interest in keeping it in one location, so San Antonio may be in a good position to be the annual host of the Games.
During his President’s Report, Richard Perez shared that the new Aviation Director Jesus Saenz, who was the Chief Operating Officer for the Houston Airport System, will be joining us for the SA to DC trip. The San Antonio Air Services Task Force asked the Chamber to share a survey regarding air service, specifically the pursuit of nonstop service to Europe, likely through one of the major hub markets such as Frankfurt or London. The airport staff has created a very short 10 question survey that should take no more than a few minutes to complete. Here is a link for the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MMDR2YN. We encourage you to complete this very important survey.
Richard also mentioned a survey on the Digital Divide. The goal of the survey is to gather information about if and how residents use the Internet. This information will be used to inform City Council’s conversations and decisions around our community’s infrastructure, devices, and literacy efforts. Here is the link for the survey: https://utsa.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_79Y842R8REJXOZf
Finally, Richard discussed the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center’s Brothers in Arms program, which will pre-screen a select group of regular blood donors to allow them to donate blood immediately in case of an emergency trauma situation. The Chamber will share more information on the program in the coming months.