PdA columnists Ben Judson and Randy Bear discuss SA's position as a growing tech hub, and related issues such as regional transportation and the city's lifestyle image.
- Monday, 11 March 2013 12:43
- Nelson Balido
Looking back over my regular commentaries on border affairs, I’m afraid that from time to time I’ve given readers the impression that things are all doom and gloom on the border – from lines that are too long to infrastructure that is too old and budgets that are too tight, you might think that our borders with Canada and Mexico are just giant parking lots of trucks and cars going nowhere.
But you know what? There are a lot of good things happening on the border.
Let’s start with the fact that all of the concern over staff and facilities and sequestration furloughs is a result of strong trade levels with our NAFTA partners. Consider that since 1994, the year of NAFTA’s implementation, U.S. exports to Mexico have nearly tripled, meaning job growth here at home, which in turns leads to buying power that has caused U.S. imports to rise more than threefold in that same period.
- Saturday, 09 March 2013 17:33
- Ben Judson
Just as SXSW Interactive wraps up with its awards ceremony Tuesday evening, 80 miles south at Geekdom, members of San Antonio’s growing tech community will be sitting down to hear Brad Feld discuss his new book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. In addition to being a serial entrepreneur, Feld is a founder of TechStars, a startup accelerator that is integral to Geekdom’s (and Rackspace’s) strategy for turning San Antonio into the “cloud computing capital of the world.”
Geekdom’s star is rising, and the hype is starting to spread beyond Loop 1604. The Atlantic Cities blog this week published a post entitled “Can San Antonio Displace Austin as Texas’s Tech Hub?” The piece focuses, of course, on Rackspace and Geekdom, but also mentions that the Air Force’s cyber-warfare division is located in San Antonio. (USAA’s huge IT staff and Microsoft’s West Side data center went unmentioned.)
The title is apparently just a hook to get page views, and the article doesn’t delve into the differences between San Antonio’s and Austin’s tech communities or their prospects. But the biggest problem with the title is the idea that Austin and San Antonio should be competing for the tech hub crown. On the contrary, the cities should be trying to bridge their creative communities.
- Sunday, 03 March 2013 09:34
- Jeffrey Wright
In which SA contemplates giving its lunch money to the playground bully
Last year, shortly after the disclosure of intense talks with H-E-B over the construction of a downtown supermarket, City Hall announced $1 million in taxpayer monies to attract an unspecified banner-name operator. It went unsaid but residents knew exactly which storefront planners envisioned: the chain Mayor Julián Castro has referred to as San Antonio’s “official store.” So the release this week of an RFI for companies tantalized by the incentive feels like a dog-and-pony show designed to deflect the criticism of citizens who might oppose a handout to one of San Antonio’s richest corporations.
In no other metropolitan area in the United States do shoppers patronize a supermarket chain that wields such dizzying market dominance. Outside of South Texas, any metropolis you care to name is plied by myriad local, regional and national supermarket chains. Kroger, Albertsons, Publix, Vons, Ralphs, Safeway, Food Lion, and other major banners constantly compete for customers. A national survey by Consumer Reports published last May revealed that, “[o]ne-third of subscribers surveyed said they had given the heave-ho to a nearby grocery store.”
Good luck with that here. With rare exception, H-E-B – which declined requests for an interview for this story – provides virtually the only traditional supermarket service, even though groceries remain big business in the U.S. According to a research report on retail by Wells Fargo Securities last August, “The vast majority of people (more than 80 percent of those we surveyed) indicate that they still shop at a traditional grocery store (i.e., Safeway, Kroger, Albertson’s, etc.) as one of their primary grocery destinations.” Locally, the competition H-E-B faces comes not from supermarket powerhouses such as those, but indirectly from niche or natural chains like La Fiesta or Whole Foods, hypermarket formats operated by Walmart and Target, and military commissaries.
- Monday, 25 February 2013 09:09
- Nelson Balido
We’re only days away from sequestration, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts that were supposed to have been so awful, so distasteful to lawmakers and the president that there was no chance we’d ever reach this point. And yet here we are.
Don’t get me wrong: I won’t defend a dysfunctional federal budget that is bleeding red ink as Congress and the administration avoid the tough choices over entitlement program reforms and fails to engage in a real debate over the size and scope of government.
But as other commentators and even the President have noted, sequestration takes a meat cleaver to core government services where a scalpel is what is needed.
Most of the press coverage of sequestration has focused on its effect on the defense sector, and rightly so. After all, defending our country against foreign threats is a constitutionally mandated duty, not some experimental program in an obscure government agency. The Department of Defense is preparing plans to furlough 800,000 civilian workers, which is a hit to our economy as we claw our way out of the Great Recession.
But less publicized has been sequestration’s effect on our border agencies: Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol.