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San Antonio’s diversified economy thrives

By Johnny Hernandez
La Prensa

SAN ANTONIO — “This is about as good as it gets right now,” said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who delivered the keynote address at the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce’s 39th Annual Economic Outlook Conference (EOC) held last month.

The EOC served as an opportunity for members of the local business community to share the latest information about various industry developments within San Antonio.
According to the Chamber’s quarterly report, local job growth has seen better days, but could very well turn around come this fall.

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“Healthcare and bioscience is the number one industry in San Antonio,” said Richard Perez, president of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. “One of every seven jobs in San Antonio is in the healthcare or bioscience sector.”

About 30 or 40 years ago, San Antonio’s economy relied solely on tourism and the military. Today, it is a much more diversified economy. (Courtesy photo)

Perez is not only talking about doctors, nurses and x-ray techs, but also those who teach people how to be doctors, nurses and others of the like. In addition, there are also plenty of research jobs and facilities available to make a huge impact on the future of San Antonio’s economy.

With a $16-$17 billion economic impact from that sector each year, it is no wonder why the Alamo City has not been hit hard by the nation’s recession. Instead, S.A. seems to be on the right track, according to keynote speaker Giuliani, but with much more room for growth.

“I’m going to give you some advice, and the advice is this,” said Giuliani. “You need to continue to invest in your infrastructure.”

By infrastructure, the former New York City mayor did not only discuss roads, transportation and sewage, but also focused on infrastructure within people and communities through education and job training for future generations.

For high school students who do not have the means readily available to pursue higher education, and want to make a seamless transition from high school to college and/or the work force, Perez mentioned The Alamo Academies (www.accd.edu/academies) as a good source for doing so.

 

The Academies is a partnership between Alamo Community Colleges and other local schools and businesses designed to teach innovative, IT job skills to students as they earn college credit while still in high school.

“They are basically catapulted to sophomore status after graduating from high school, cutting the cost to go to college in half,” Perez explained.

The IT/cyber security sector is another growing area that will help boost the city’s economy, according to what was discussed at the conference.

“That is an industry that has grown tremendously, and in fact it has doubled in size in 10 years,” said Perez.

In a 2008 economic study, according to Perez, the economy experienced a positive impact of about $8 billion, $4 billion more from 1998. Perez said this is sure to generate plenty of high-paying, high-tech jobs for San Antonio.

Other topics discussed as sources of economic growth included sports and entertainment, manufacturing, and financial services such as insurance companies like Nationwide, who recently added thousands of new jobs to S.A.

But when it came to a more streamlined immigration reform as a source for improving San Antonio’s economy, the hot topic was not discussed at the EOC.

Perez told La Prensa, however, that The Chamber definitely supports a positive comprehensive immigration reform.

“We have people living in our community who don’t have legal status and they’re living in the shadows,” said Perez. “They’re living in that underground economy, if you will, and we need to put them into the mainstream economy to help us get that economic engine running again.”

Overall, the economic engine is running smooth and steady for San Antonio in 2010, due to the city’s very diversified economy according to Perez.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, we had an economy based on two things…tourism and the military,” said Perez.

With more jobs today in health-care and bioscience, IT and cyber security, manufacturing, financial services, sports and entertainment, as well as the mainstays of tourism and military, San Antonio can look forward to a brighter economy for 2010 and the years to come.

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