Despite the past 16 months of pandemic-induced restrictions, Port San Antonio has stayed the course powered by its mission to create an innovation hub and more tech jobs at its San Antonio campus.
Startups and established global enterprises on the Port’s 1,900-acre technology campus have added more than 4,600 new jobs since 2018 — including over 1,200 jobs in 2020 alone, Port San Antonio chief executive officer (CEO) and president Jim Perschbach said at the annual State of the Port update Tuesday morning.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia kicked off the community’s first major technology innovation showcase since early 2020. The function included a brief update on the Port’s recent milestones, led by Port Board chair Chris Alderete and Perschbach.
This year’s State of the Port event took place on the fifth floor of its latest completed facility designed for cybersecurity and other classified government contract work. The 174,000-square-foot Project Tech Building 2 building constructed on speculation became fully leased during its construction in 2020. The newly completed facility will house hundreds of additional technology jobs once the interior is finished out to the specifications of its occupants.
Project Tech Building 2’s top floor also included an industry showcase of over 25 Port tenants advancing groundbreaking projects in aerospace, bioscience, robotics, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, among other fields. The displays of robots, computer screens, prosthetic devices, and other advanced tech demonstrations made it feel like “an adult science fair,” said District 4 Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia.
Port San Antonio is a public entity that’s also the single-largest commercial or industrial property in Bexar County, created from some of the land formerly occupied by Kelly Air Force Base, which closed in the 1995 Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) downsizing. Over 80 tenant customers lease facilities (both former Air Force and newly built spaces) from the Port, employing more than 14,000 people throughout the property. According to the Texas Comptroller, the Port is also generating a local economic impact of over $5.6 billion annually.
The Port is using a two-pronged approach to develop into an innovation hub. In addition to established aviation tenants such as Knight Aerospace, StandardAero, and Boeing, the Port has also attracted advanced tech tenants such as Plus One Robotics, Xyrec, and Reckon Point.
Port San Antonio is also fostering the tech workforce of the future with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and programs. The Compass Rose Ingenuity is a K-12 STEM-focused school that was built on the Port’s campus in 2020.
“We’ve created a self-sustaining economic development engine,” Perschbach said. “Of the 4,602 jobs created here since fiscal year 2017, only 50 were the result of government economic incentives.”
By early 2022, the Port plans on launching its state-of-the-art innovation facility, which is currently under construction. Port San Antonio board members committed $60 million in August 2020 to build a state-of-the-art facility that will connect people with employment, educational, and entrepreneurial opportunities.
The 130,000 square-foot innovation center will be a multi-purpose building with a 2,500-seat technology arena capable of flexible configurations for hosting esports (competitive multiplayer video gaming) competitions, concerts, product launches, large training programs, and conferences. In addition, the expanded home for the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT) will house a vast STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) collection and host educational programs focused on connecting past discoveries with current technologies.
A research and development (R&D) lab with specialized prototyping and fabrication equipment will support STEM-driven startups. In addition, classrooms and meeting spaces will be available for educational programs, smaller industry meetings, and collaborative gatherings. The space will also have a full-scale food hall, including catering support for the various events hosted at the center.
In keeping with the Port’s economic development mandate, the board also decided to allocate 100% of the innovation center’s excess revenue (after expenses) to support technology-focused K-12, college-level, and professional development programs.
Port vice president for cybersecurity business development Will Garett said this center is “a one of a kind facility not seen across the nation. We’ll have these capabilities coupled with the innovation showroom that will act as a tech transfer space where DOD [Department of Defense] and other system integrators can interact and connect.”
Perschbach said adding an esports arena that can accommodate STEM educational activities such as drone races and cybersecurity gaming competitions will help place San Antonio on the map for science- and technology-driven innovation.
Since Perschbach has stepped into the CEO role overseeing the Port’s redevelopment efforts into an innovation campus, the bottom line has always been more than leasing 5.6 million square feet of space since fiscal year 2017. Instead, as Perscbach told attendees, it’s about creating the economic development conditions for “great things to happen here.”
As San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during his opening remarks, “this campus is very quickly evolving into a world-class tech town square. It’s a place for San Antonians to build upon and share with the world the quality, the value, and the ingenuity of our work.”
The featured image is of Port San Antonio Project Tech Building 2, which is ready for companies to lease its specialized spaces. Photo credit: Port San Antonio.