Chamber Board of Directors meets virtually for June meeting

The San Antonio Chamber Board of Directors met virtually yesterday morning for the June Board of Directors meeting. Following a welcome and opening remarks from Chamber Chair and President and CEO of Southwest Research Institute Adam Hamilton, the Chamber’s President and CEO Richard Perez, along with Vice President of Public Policy Stephanie Reyes, provided an update on the community conversation that has begun to take place here in San Antonio regarding the current police contract and disciplinary provisions within that contract. The City’s Public Safety Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Cabello-Havrda, is leading on the effort and hosted three community listening sessions last week to gather feedback on policing in San Antonio.

Your Chamber sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council last week providing our feedback on how we believe meaningful changes should be made by addressing some of the provisions in the current collective bargaining agreement. Negotiations on a new contract will begin next year. The current collective bargaining agreement contains provisions that have effectively become protections that prevent the Police Chief from removing officers for violating the law, and making it difficult for both the Police Chief and the City Manager to discipline bad officers. Additionally, there is also a good bit of movement at the federal level regarding police reform efforts as both the House and Senate have introduced bills to address various reforms. The Senate bill was voted down by Senate Democrats on Wednesday. We will continue to follow the issue closely and stay engaged.

Hope Andrade, the Chamber’s Chair-Elect and current Chair of the VIA Metropolitan Transit Board of Directors, shared a high level update on VIA’s financial status and touched upon the on-going discussions with city officials on their projected budget shortfall, the potential for a sales tax election and a continued revenue stream from city’s general fund. Given budget shortfalls, VIA has put on hold the larger vision for transportation improvements contained in the VIA Reimagined program in order to focus on their core services. She reported there is an on-going dialogue between VIA and Mayor Nirenberg and Judge Wolff that is focused on addressing their budget shortfall that will prevent or minimize a cut in services.

During his President’s report, Richard Perez reinforced the importance of wearing facemasks and mentioned Judge Wolff’s recent executive order mandates that businesses require employees and individuals who enter a place of business to wear face masks. Richard then invited Lisa Marie Gomez, Vice President of Education and Workforce Development to discuss the Workforce Development Survey the Chamber is promoting. The City and Bexar County have decided to put a significant percentage of COVID Relief Funds toward Workforce Development programs. In an effort to ensure those dollars are invested in effective training programs, Alamo Colleges approached the Chamber to assist with sending out a survey. The survey is designed to capture current industry hiring needs, what certificates or credentials are in demand right now, and to gauge employer interest in developing On-The-Job (OTJ) training programs. Alamo Colleges will use the information collected to determine which training programs need to be ramped up or adjusted.  The Alamo Colleges are also working with a number of other partners, including WSA, to connect displaced workers with training partners with the goal of getting people back to work. The survey is short and designed to assess short term hiring needs, and the only way that training programs can really know if their programs are relevant is with your input.

Belinda Hartwig, the Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development, provided an update on the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and 501(c)6 eligibility. The Chamber has led a coalition of local non-profit organizations in advocating for Congress to allow for 501(c)6 not-for-profit organizations such as the Chamber eligibility to apply for the PPP, which are forgivable loans through the Small Business Administration and United States Treasury. The Senate introduced language last week that would include chambers of commerce and destination marketing organizations, such as Visit San Antonio, in the program but still excludes other 501(c)6 organizations. She went on to say that our work will continue on this important opportunity.

Finally, Richard provided an update on the two Supreme Court rulings that came down last week that have direct impact on our community’s ability to attract, retain, and support top talent –  the LGBTQ protections for employment and the continuation of the DACA program.

The dialogue then moved to the Chamber’s Director of Special Events Andrew Gorman and Vice President of Image and Communications Julie Ring who presented an update on a community-wide campaign to celebrate, recognize, and honor the dedication, contributions, and sacrifices of San Antonio’s essential workers during COVID-19. The social media-focused efforts kicked- off Thursday 6/25 at 7 p.m. and will continue through July 14. They stressed that anyone can participate in the campaign by simply share a picture showing thanks to San Antonio’s essential workers and sharing it on their Facebook and/or Twitter account, tag @weheartSAheroes, and use #weheartSAheroes. There is also a secondary message associated with this campaign focused on encouraging San Antonians to wear their face masks as important wat to minimize the spread of COVID-19 when they leave their homes. The hashtag for that campaign is #SAheroeswearmasks. Visit the campaign toolkit on Dropbox or Google Drive to find useful graphics, email blast and social media content, and more. (Read more here.)

Dave Petersen, Executive Vice President, updated the Board that the Chamber remains financially sound through the end of May reporting.  Adapting special events to virtual formats and the hard work of the membership team to both gain new members and retain current members is bearing fruit.  Dave shared analysis for the remainder of the year including worst case analysis.  The Operating Council is watching the finances in detail monthly and will keep the Board informed of any changes to the forecast.

Vice President of Military Affairs and Leadership Development Lori Stinson then provided a military affairs update which included timely information on a national effort focused on U.S. Army recruiting. Due to COVID and the remote and virtual nature of recruiting today, our service’s recruiting missions and their numbers have been impacted. As a response, the Army is holding a “National Hiring Days” initiative, which will run from June 30th through July 2nd with the goal of hiring 10,000 new soldiers. The Army’s National Hiring Days is a virtual campaign showcasing the U.S. Army’s 150 full-time and part-time career options, training, benefits, and education to inspire future leaders to join the military. In addition to enlisting, there are also scholarship opportunities to attend college and Active and Reserve positions are available. The following link will provide great information on the initiative: (Read more here.)

In addition, Lori recapped our recent Women in the Military event, where we highlighted the role of women who serve in the military and were honored to be joined by LTG Laura Richardson from Army North, Maj Gen Jeannie Leavitt who just relinquished command of Air Force Recruiting and is now at Air Education and Training Command, and Navy Captain Elizabeth Montcalm-Smith who is a Navy scientist. All panelists candidly shared their experiences, why they joined the military, and also how they continue to mentor to women within their services. The event was sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton, SWRI and Port San Antonio. (Read more here.)

Finally, Lori shared that Governor Abbott released the latest numbers, based on the state Comptroller’s study, for the Economic Impact of Texas’ military installations on Monday. Previously, military installations overall economic impact was $101.6B in 2018, and the updated estimates for military installations currently is an overall economic impact of $123.6B, which is a 22% increase statewide. JBSA’s economic output is estimated to be $41,325,690,000 compared to $30B in 2018, and JBSA supports 210,998 direct and indirect jobs. (Read more.)

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