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Report: San Antonio's tech jobs are largely outside of downtown

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Katie Haugland Bowen (CC BY 2.0)
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Flickr http://bit.ly/2vtTffj

San Antonio has for years tried to create a downtown technology district but a new report suggests mixed progress.

Downtown doesn't rank in the top five technology hubs in terms of number of employees, according to a new economic impact report commissioned Tech Bloc, but it is the fastest growing area in the city, from a once very small number. The area does boast the largest number of small startups.

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Tech Bloc
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An image of the city's technology workforce hubs as charted in a report

The “industry” is a collection of job sectors from cyber to robotics professionals working in nearly every other industry as it becomes a facet of every transaction, marketing plan and human interaction.

City and county leaders have often looked toward IT as a bridge to higher paying jobs. The report shows those assumptions aren’t wrong with local internet technology professionals making 60% more in average salaries than the average employee working in the county. That’s the difference between $55,000 and $88,000. The industry contributes $11 billion in economic impact annually.

That said the group of professionals make up a tiny fraction of the overall area private workforce at 2%.

“It kind of underscores the continued call for action for our local economy,” said Tech Bloc CEO David Heard. “These are great paying jobs but we just don’t have enough of them here.”

Much of the momentum around internet technology jobs is gravitating towards Port San Antonio — the former Kelly Airbase that is home to much of the city's cyber security jobs both government and private. Port SA is twice as large as the next biggest hub.

In recent years, it has made a play toward more traditional tech jobs through office space expansions — adding more than 640,000 square feet since 2017 — and by building its new innovation center. It has invested tens of millions of dollars in the area and secured deals with Plus One Robotics and gone for the marquee with the much-hyped and city-sponsored electric reboot of Delorean automotive.

“Years of progress here that has finally now resulted in what is unstoppable momentum,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said of the port a year ago.

Another large hub is on North 281 where several commercial cybersecurity ventures have lived for years.

Aside from security, H-E-B continues to drive retail commercial job growth in IT according to the report which was assembled by two emeritus Trinity University professors: Richard Butler and Mary Stefl. The grocer plans to open a new technology center in the city that can host 1,000 jobs.

Other big players are who you would expect with Rackspace and USAA.

The city — despite its low overall number of technology jobs — has seen the industry grow substantially the past 15 years.

While the report clearly shows that the critical mass that many have tried to push in the city core is elsewhere it isn’t clear what that means for industry boosters like Tech Bloc — the advocacy arm of the technology industry. The reports candid acknowledgement signals that “activating downtown” as is so often the mantra for these groups, may not be the most important thing for the city’s tech industry.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Technology and Entrepreneurship News Fund including The 80/20 Foundation, Digital Defense, Rackspace, The Elmendorf Family Fund, UTSA Center for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship, SecureLogix, USAA and Giles Design Bureau.

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