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Port San Antonio Growing With 'Unstoppable Momentum'

Port State Of 2021
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
June 29 State Of The Port Presentation

The transformation of the former Kelly Air Force Base on San Antonio’s South Side continues two decades after it became Port San Antonio. The annual State of the Port address was hosted on the top floor of its Project Tech 2 building in front of around 200 guests.

State of the Port
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Two hundred guests and tenants gathered to hear the state of the Port.

The $50 million building is only the latest in a string of buildings and expansions on the 1,900-acre campus that boasts rapid job growth, in-demand industries and continued successes.

Port San Antonio has been aggressively adding space since 2017. According to CEO Jim Perschbach they have added 640,000 square feet in new buildings. It put $20 million — some in loans — to build its Project Tech 1 building three years ago. This follows the quickly leased building by doubling down in space and investment in its Tech 2 building, which Perschbach said was 100% leased even though it still is being built.

Port CEO Jim Perschbach
Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio

The space added accommodates its traditional Department of Defense contractors clients like Booz Allen Hamilton and IT Secure, as well as the aerospace industry giants Boeing and Northrop Grumman. The Port is also courting new startups in the technology space like Plus One Robotics, one of the fastest growing technology companies in the city, which sells its robotic vision software to clients like FedEx.

“This campus is very quickly evolving into a world-class tech Town Square, showcasing our talent here in San Antonio,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

The next and most ambitious project the Port has taken on is yet to open. Just 100 yards away from the $50 million Tech 2 building is the skeletal frame of the $60 million Innovation Center and esports arena.

The Port was spurred into existence by a base closure that at one time supported thousands of nearby families. Now its current form is a center of gravity. The Port has added 4,600 jobs since 2015, 1,000 jobs annually the past three years according to Port San Antonio staff. Only about 50 of those jobs came as a result of government incentives. The area is a large bright spot in a part of town often known for its challenges, rather than its strengths.

“When you look around, you see a massive economic engine,” said Adriana Garcia-Rocha, District 4 councilwoman.

The economic impact of the Port was estimated at $5.6 billion in 2018 by the state comptroller’s office. Three years later, it continues to not only grow, but to make big investments.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive