Leaders from the city of San Antonio, CPS Energy and Port San Antonio gathered Dec. 10 at the Southwest Side port to mark the launch of a $4.2 million facility designed to help safeguard the digital assets belonging to public organizations.

The Alamo Regional Security Operations Center is a collaborative effort among the city; CPS Energy, the city-owned electrical utility; and Port San Antonio, the former Kelly Air Force Base that now serves as a public-private industry park.

Officials said the new cyber operations center stands as an example for other communities as part of efforts to fight hackers who threaten utilities, municipalities and other local governments.

According to the company Accenture in August, there has been a 125% increase in cyberattacks year over year, including a ransomware incident that crippled the Judson ISD’s communications over the summer. The school district paid nearly $550,000 to prevent the release of private information, JISD officials said.

“We’ve got bad actors across the world that would love nothing better than to do that day in and day out,” CPS Energy interim CEO Rudy Garza said of such hackers.

“The stakes could not be higher,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said about the center’s ability to enhance cybersecurity for a range of local governments, utilities and agencies.

City Council in 2020 approved a 15-year agreement with Port San Antonio to rent 20,000 square feet for free to accommodate the new cybersecurity hub. The city spent $2.5 million to build the ARSOC with CPS Energy providing $1.5 million toward the facility’s construction.

“Establishing the ARSOC on this campus is another huge step in advancing our work to grow a technology innovation destination by increasing connectivity—both physical and virtual—so that our leading experts can work more closely than ever before in a joint effort to defend our community and our nation,” port President and CEO Jim Perschbach said.

Perschbach added city and CPS Energy leaders look forward to partnering with other city governments, utilities and school districts that could benefit from this new cybersecurity resource.

Local leaders and others said the ARSOC also bolsters San Antonio’s reputation as having one of the biggest concentrations of information security expertise in the country.

According to Business Facilities magazine in October, more than 100 local private cyber companies employ more than 16,000 people, and upward of about 80,000 people could be employed by various government agencies across the San Antonio region.

Port San Antonio hosts the Texas Air National Guard’s 273rd Cyberspace Operations Squadron, which is part of the U.S. Cyber Command's team that supports the 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber).

The former Southwest Side Air Force base will also be home to the Tech Port Center + Arena, which is under construction and set for completion in spring 2022, and a planned Innovation Center, which local officials said will provide ARSOC partners with a place to do technology training and public demonstrations to strengthen regional collaborations.

“It is fair to say that nowhere else in the nation can someone find the critical mass that already exists in our community plus ongoing alignment and creative collaborations between the commercial, defense and research sectors,” said Will Garrett, the port’s vice president of talent and technology development and integration. “We’re excited by the tremendous potential of this latest asset and the partnerships it will enable.