San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, in his annual State of the City speech April 9, said the city remains strong in addressing post-COVID-19 pandemic challenges, such as changing employment patterns.

What happened

The Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce hosted Nirenberg's State of the City luncheon at the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel. There, Nirenberg cited a recent Brookings Institution study that stated income and poverty gaps between the richest and poorest local communities have shrunk in recent years at a quicker rate than nearly every U.S. city.

Nirenberg also referenced a 2023 Price Waterhouse report showing San Antonio as one of their top 10 real estate markets to watch in 2024, with the accounting firm complimenting the city’s affordability, diversity, rapid growth and rate of economic recovery following the height of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nirenberg said JCB, an England-based construction and agricultural heavy equipment maker, deciding to build a 720,000-square-foot plant on the south side is just one example of San Antonio’s continued economic growth, especially in the manufacturing sector.

Nirenberg also said, despite early stumbles, the local Ready to Work workforce training program is expanding through partnerships with local employers and the preparation of workers for a widening variety of jobs.

"More than 6,500 people have enrolled in the program, more than 1,200 people have graduated, and more than 50% of graduates are already on the job,” Nirenberg said of the Ready to Work initiative. "The average wage increase for those who are already on the job is more than triple what it is costing us to train them.”

Nirenberg said San Antonio is also making progress in enlarging the local affordable housing stock, adding that by the end of 2023, construction started on 1,000-plus new multifamily units citywide with support from the city’s $150 million housing bond, which local voters approved in May 2022.

Additionally, proceeds from housing bond sales have thus far allowed the city to upgrade nearly 900 older and low-income homes to ensure occupants age in place while preserving the value of their house. Another 1,700 new homes are being developed, or houses are under repair, Nirenberg said.

Dig deeper

Nirenberg discussed ongoing efforts to enhance and expand the San Antonio International Airport, saying results of that project should help to bring more nonstop service to the local airport, and help the north side facility better accommodate a projected rise in population and air travelers.

Nirenberg also mentioned VIA Metropolitan Transit’s plans to develop dedicated advanced rapid transit corridors, which he said will be a boon to people who rely on public mass transit.

Nirenberg also thanked leaders at both local utilities—CPS Energy and San Antonio Water System—for their efforts to shore up San Antonio’s power and water supplies. Additionally, he thanked City Council members for adopting some property tax relief and for passing a fiscal year 2023-24 budget that contains funds to add 100-plus police and firefighter positions, and to bolster the animal care services department.

“As next year’s budget process gets underway, I’ll be sure to dedicate my attention to the things that matter most to our residents, including ways we can responsibly mitigate the soaring costs of child care, which has proven to be a significant barrier to our residents in need of rental assistance and job training,” Nirenberg said.

What's next

Nirenberg said a major goal for much of the rest of this year will be overseeing recommendations the city’s charter review commission will make toward a potential November charter amendment election.

Nirenberg said the commission is still collecting public input and discussing various issues, including possibly increasing council members’ pay, a topic that garnered negative attention from residents and political observers in recent weeks.

“Here is where I want to issue a word of caution. If I’ve learned anything over the last seven years, I’ve learned that it’s easy for people to wring their hands and make headlines out of a work in progress—especially a public work in progress,” Nirenberg said. "I’m confident the recommendations from this commission and any ballot that is crafted by City Council will be responsible to our residents."

The final charter review commission community meetings will start at 5:30 p.m on April 11 and 25 at the Central Library, 600 Soledad St.