Emphasis on Greater
by Jenna Saucedo-Herrera
Many of you know that I am a silver lining leader. The devastation of COVID-19 and the outcry for social reform have left the country, and our own community, reeling. Our business leaders, medical experts, and local government have shown up ready to work toward a greater, safer tomorrow for every single person who calls San Antonio home.
Even before the pandemic, leaders recognized the need to address our greatest challenges, income, and education gaps rising to the forefront for the economic development community. The pandemic served to further highlight existing disparities and accelerate our drive at SAEDF. Together with a multi-sector movement of leaders, we plan to move forward with our regional economic development strategy to grow our workforce from within and ensure stability and resiliency for our local businesses.
At the onset of the crisis, our focus shifted to rescue efforts targeted to help businesses access the counseling and funding needed to continue operating, and guide workers whose jobs have been impacted connect with the right training programs to get back to work. Business rescue included multiple streams of work.
We set out to understand our local businesses’ needs, bring together the right stakeholders to support business counseling and funding, and deploy new programs around that support. Institutions like LiftFund were able to scale existing resources and provide disaster-related counseling and funding to small businesses. UTSA also answered the call for help establishing Texas’ first COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Accelerator (COBRA). To date, the accelerator has served 2,200 clients and has supported $25.5M in approved capital funding transactions. What’s most encouraging, not a single client of the program has closed their business.
As our community prepared to reopen our economy, SAEDF leaned in to assist the City and County’s Economic Transition Team to develop a playbook for businesses to safely reopen. Born out of this effort is the Greater. Safer. Together. campaign, which to date has resulted in more than 8,000 local businesses taking the pledge and receiving safety equipment to help keep customers and employees safe as businesses reopen.
Our workforce team, SA Works, continues to regularly convene with the region’s workforce organizations, like Workforce Solutions Alamo, the Texas Workforce Commission to share resources, follow trends and find programmatic solutions for people experiencing joblessness. This team, aligned with our region’s largest higher education institutions like the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M San Antonio and Alamo Colleges, is hard at work developing fast-paced, industry-led reskilling, and upskilling programs to transition affected workers into target industry positions.
While our focus has shifted from rescue to recovery, it’s important to note that we never stopped working on business recruitment projects. Our team added 30 new prospects to the pipeline during the lockdown, a testament to the momentum our region built leading into this year. While our business development team won’t resume travel any time soon, we are actively reaching targeting key geographies and welcoming prospects virtually.
The past few months have confirmed what I find to be unique to our community. When you’re here in San Antonio, you’re part of something greater. Our community isn’t working tirelessly to get back to “normal.” We have the chance to be greater than ever—and we plan to take it.