Strategic support of industries at the site, combined with $100 million in ongoing capital projects, are key to grow top employers
San Antonio, TX — Port San Antonio is working hand-in-hand with its customers and public partners as it leads an effort to add 5,000 new jobs at the large industrial complex by 2020.
Port President and CEO Roland Mower unveiled the ambitious goal to business leaders and public officials at the annual State of the Port briefing, hosted by the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
To achieve this goal, the organization’s priorities will focus on ongoing modernization of the former Kelly Air Force Base property and further growing the Port’s strategic collaboration with its customers as they pursue important opportunities locally, nationally and globally.
Mower pointed to ongoing capital improvement projects totaling over $100 million dollars that are central to converting the former base so that it meets 21st-century industry requirements. He noted these investments by the Port, its customers and public partners lay the foundation to retain and grow the site’s key employers. These include large aerospace, manufacturing, business services, logistics and Department of Defense operations. Those industries based at the Port already employ 12,000 workers and generate over $4 billion in regional economic activity each year.
“There is a lot that has already happened at the Port over the past 20 years,” he said, citing the 1995 decision by the Department of Defense to close Kelly Air Force Base. “But it’s no exaggeration to say that we’ve only just begun.”
“We are proud to be a vital part of San Antonio’s history and to be a key player in helping shape its future,” said Port Board Chairman Dan Weingart. “We’ve built a strong foundation for industries that have grown here and provided good jobs to thousands of people. There are many opportunities ahead to grow that number significantly. The time is now to take bold action and add to that record of success—to benefit today’s and future generations.”
“The Port is a vibrant and growing part of our community,” said San Antonio District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña, who introduced Mower at the event. “As it redevelops the land that was once Kelly, the Port is part of an enduring legacy that is almost 100 years old and has transformed countless lives. With Roland’s continued leadership and ongoing support from partners at the City and elsewhere, I know there are new victories ahead. We are excited and energized by the Port’s bold vision to accelerate its job-creation mandate.”
Mower pointed out that only 40 percent of the Port’s 1,900 acres have been redeveloped to date. The expansive property, which is minutes from downtown and directly accessible by air, truck and rail, is a unique industrial and commercial platform for South Texas. Hundreds of acres are still available for strategic industrial and commercial expansions.
“This land holds the promise of future jobs. We need to move full speed ahead to align our property with growing opportunities that our customers are pursuing at this very moment,” he added.
Among the capital improvement projects that support ongoing operations and new development is the upcoming demolition of 500,000 square feet of obsolete warehouses adjacent to the north airfield. The effort will clear over 170 acres and make way for the construction of hangars and workshops. The $5 million project is a collaboration between the Port, City of San Antonio and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Once cleared, the air-served acreage will represent an important opportunity for the region, making it one of only three sites in Texas that can accommodate large aerospace facilities that require direct airfield access.
Mower also noted that the City of San Antonio has begun work extending 36th Street by an additional half-mile into the heart of the property. The new road, which by 2016 will end close to large aerospace and Department of Defense facilities, will support growing commuter and logistics activity. It will also facilitate the development of mixed-use sites in the central part of the Port.
Similarly, CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) are conducting nearly $16 million in upgrades to electric and water infrastructure at the Port—facilitating the work of current industries as well as upcoming land development.
In addition to the capital projects underway, Mower underscored the importance of working in close partnership with established customers to provide them strategic support as they grow their businesses.
He pointed to CIG Logistics as an important example. The operation, which specializes in the transfer of cargoes between railcars and trucks, has experienced a four-fold increase in activity since it opened for business at the Port’s East Kelly Railport in 2007. The transloader initially focused on transferring steel, lumber and other bulk commodities in support of the region’s manufacturing and construction industries.
Since 2011, with the advent of the Eagle Ford Shale play, the operation has seen a surge in demand for the movement of oilfield equipment and supplies. Accordingly, in 2012 the Port and CIG partnered with rail developer and operator Watco Companies, investing a combined $15 million in new track and storage infrastructure to accommodate the growing volumes.
Mower also highlighted the 15-year trajectory of Xerox, one of the Port’s earliest customers. Since 2000, the company’s operation (previously known as Affiliated Computer Services) has grown its local workforce from 100 startup workers to over 1,000 employees today. In August, Xerox announced that it will hire hundreds of additional workers to provide services in payment processing and customer support to public- and private-sector clients, which include Texas state government and major retailers.
He likewise noted that Boeing, which since 1998 has operated a 1.6 million square-foot aircraft maintenance facility at Kelly Field, recently renewed its lease at the Port by another 15 years.
“This is a powerful affirmation of our customer’s confidence in our community, our workforce and the Port. We stand ready to help Boeing and our other aerospace customers prepare for the future,” said Mower.
He explained that the aerospace industry has especially important growth opportunities taking place right now and in the years ahead. Boeing’s latest analysis foresees a doubling in the global commercial aircraft fleet within less than 20 years—from 21,000 aircraft today to 42,000 by 2034.
“The great news for San Antonio is that you get to build an aircraft only once, but you maintain it for decades after that,” said Mower. He pointed to the 100-year legacy of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul at Kelly Field—first as a military-run depot and, since the late 1990’s, as a place where Boeing, other top names in the industry and their combined workforce of 3,000 employees continue to provide an array of services to support military and commercial aircraft.
An integral component of the Port’s vision to help create 5,000 new jobs by 2020 is to collaborate with established aerospace industries on its property and elsewhere in the community to grow the diversity of services they provide. Given the opportunities presented by the fast-growing commercial sector, in recent months the Port’s efforts have sharply focused on helping position San Antonio as a “one-stop” aerospace support center.
“Aircraft owners and operators value efficiency," said Mower. "Being able to provide 'one-stop' maintenance by offering an array of services in a single community provides real value and makes the Port's customers and other aerospace businesses in San Antonio even more competitive in a global market."
As part of that effort, Mower noted the arrival of GoAeroMX earlier this year—among the Port’s newest customers. GoAero’s new workshop at Kelly Field has added avionics and in-cabin entertainment systems capabilities to the range of expertise available from the aerospace community at the Port.
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