Yesterday, the Chamber held its July Board of Directors meeting virtually with Chamber Chair and President and CEO of Southwest Research Institute Adam Hamilton providing the welcome and opening remarks. Chamber President and CEO Richard Perez provided the Board with an update on the 1/8 cent sales tax. Voters approved the use of the 1/8 cent sales tax to purchase land over the Edwards Aquifer for water quality protection. Earlier in the year, Mayor Nirenberg was hoping to use the 1/8 cent sales tax to fund the Connect SA transportation program. However, because of the economic impact of COVID-19 on our community, the Mayor shifted his focus for the 1/8 cent sales tax to workforce development and to upgrade skills of our workforce through the Better Jobs Act. Because there is still a need for transportation funding, Mayor Nirenberg and VIA have agreed to a plan, which voters will have to approve, that allocates the 1/8 cent sales tax to workforce development for three years. After that, VIA may begin to use the funds for their operations, expenses, and service. Each part of that plan will appear on the November ballot, and voters will have to approve both of them. In the meantime, Mayor Nirenberg has appointed an Education and Workforce Leadership Team to begin to form up how we would use the dollars for workforce development.
Next, the Chamber’s Executive Vice President Dave Petersen reviewed the Chamber’s financials through the end of June, stressing that the Chamber continues to be financially sound. However, because the pandemic appears to be far from over, we will have to continue to adapt to the situation as we have been for the last four months.
During his President’s Update, Richard Perez shared that while the Chamber has been able to successfully pivot to producing special events in a virtual format, our Director of Special Events Andrew Gorman has been working diligently to identify a platform that will take our future special events to another level. Additionally, Richard reported that during last months protests downtown, two of the picture windows in the Chamber building were broken, and there was subsequent damage to the railing on the stairs and on the floor of the River Level of the building. The repairs are currently being finished. In his personnel update, Richard shared that one of the Chamber’s membership consultants, Linda Canizales, recently left the organization to become the Public and Government Relations Coordinator for Workforce Solutions Alamo. We are currently in the process of hiring a replacement and should have someone on board soon. Finally, Richard reminded board members that the City has released its Digital Inclusion Report, which is a deep dive analyzing the connectivity of all the City’s Council Districts. The City will use some of the federal dollars from the CARES act to help alleviate the digital divide, and the Chamber will continue to advocate for the need for improved digital inclusion.
The Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development Belinda Garza Hartwig and Vice President of Education and Workforce Development Lisa Marie Gomez reviewed the Gateways for Growth project and plan. The Chamber, in partnership with the City of San Antonio, was selected to participate in the 2019 cohort of the Gateways for Growth Challenge, an effort from the New American Economy and Welcoming America. The challenge consists of identifying the economic impact immigrants have on the city, developing a plan to be welcoming to newcomers, and funding the development and implementation of plan with grant dollars. The San Antonio plan was submitted to New American Economy this week and will be released to the public in the coming weeks.
Julie Ring, Vice President of Image and Communications, and Andrew Gorman, Director of Special Events, provided an update on the #weheartSAheroes campaign, which aims to show our community’s thanks for San Antonio’s essential workers who have been working tirelessly to provide for our community’s needs. The Chamber, along with a committee of San Antonio companies and organizations, including iHeart Media, NuStar, San Antonio Express News, San Antonio Visitor Alliance, United Way, University Health System, UT Health San Antonio, Valero, Walmart, and Whataburger, launched the campaign on June 24 and had originally planned to conclude it on July 14. Because of the spike in COVID cases in our community and the July 4th holiday, the campaign was extended until the end of July. One of our goals was to make it inexpensive and easy for all San Antonians to participate, and we have had wonderful engagement throughout the city. As of Wednesday, there were 1.6 million impressions and 728 total posts thanking essential workers. In addition, local technology company Tint provided us with a landing page that aggregates all the posts.