Economic diversity

San Antonio is home to the corporate headquarters of USAA, Valero Energy, NuStar, Whataburger, Southwest Business Corporation (SWBC) and HEB Grocery stores, with a combined total of approximately 40,000 employees. But our economy is mainly driven by four major industries: tourism, healthcare, the military and education (see sidebar). Between 2000 and 2012, these industries increased in employment by 80,811 jobs and accounted for 80% of new jobs in the city. The issue for the City is that while these industries provide a strong economic base, they offer wages 20% below average. The average annual wage for workers in Bexar County was about $45,000 in 2014. The average annual wage of workers in those four industries was $36,179. These industries are also dependent on changeable state and federal policy and spending levels.

Going forward, economic development efforts need to shift to industries that produce employment in the 21st century, including business within specifically targeted industry sectors.

There is growing recognition and active efforts to diversify and expand our economic base into 21st century industries that provide better wages, diversify the economy of San Antonio and can be leveraged to develop support businesses, startups and spin-offs. These targeted industries include:

Biosciences and Scientific R&D

Local operations represent nationally recognized cutting-edge biotech companies and well-respected global enterprises like Medtronic and Becton Dickinson. Global-minded companies like Xenex and Canadian medical device company Innovative Trauma Care, as well as German biosciences company Cytocentrics, have noticed and have chosen to make San Antonio their base of operations.

Information Technology/Cybersecurity

This burgeoning industry is anchored by IT hosting company Rackspace, which is attracting more companies involved in Internet infrastructure such as Peer 1 Hosting, a Canada-based company, recently located an office in the Pearl. Another example is Geekdom, a start-up incubator and co-working space located in San Antonio. Cybersecurity companies continue to grow in San Antonio due to the presence of the Air Force’s Cyber and Intelligence Commands and the NSA’s Texas Cryptologic Center.

Advanced Manufacturing

Boeing, Standard Aero and General Dynamics, all located in Port San Antonio, are leaders in the aerospace industry. Toyota has a major manufacturing plant in the southern area of the city. This category includes aerospace, auto, heavy equipment and other high-automation manufacturing.

New Energy

CPS Energy is partnering with a consortium of businesses focused on solar, battery, and other power storage and distribution opportunities, such as solar module manufacturer Mission Solar Energy that is located at Brooks City Base. The city is near the Eagle Ford Shale formation along I-37 and I-35, and oil and natural gas drilling companies rely on us to provide support services.

Cultural and Creative

This industry is aspirational, reflecting the recognition that creativity and cultural uniqueness will play an increasingly important role in our economy. San Antonio’s burgeoning art, music and film industries are staking out a global identity that will attract a desirable workforce and innovative companies. New cutting edge firms, such as Tribu and HeartFire Media, are popping up every day.

One of San Antonio’s traditional value propositions for attracting companies, low-cost labor, no longer entices targeted industries in the way it once lured call centers and other back-office operations. Instead, the city’s ability to grow and attract these newer industries will be based on the expertise, relationships and funding options associated with the area’s military bases, growing research universities and spin-off companies emerging from those great assets.

Is San Antonio cyber-savvy?

San Antonio’s association with the military and with scientific research has helped create a unique combination and concentration of technology resources making us a leader in cybersecurity. This specialization creates a foundation for over 80 cybersecurity, defense companies and institutes and 7,500 Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) employees and includes:

  • JBSA-Lackland’s Security Hill, home to the 24th Air Forces Cyber (AFCYBER), part of the U.S. Cyber Command;
  • University of Texas at San Antonio Institute for Cyber Security (ICS); and
  • Southwest Regional Institute (SwRI).

Looking forward, this nucleus of U.S. and world-leading cyber and defense technology is poised to attract greater job diversity and new innovative spin-off industries to San Antonio.

Our Traditional Economic Assets

San Antonio’s economy is mainly driven by four traditional industries: Tourism/Hospitality, Healthcare, Education and the Military.


Over 80% of our 31 million annual visitors come to San Antonio to explore our city’s cultural, historic and leisure activities. Some of our most popular sites include:

  • The San Antonio Missions UNESCO World Heritage Site including The Alamo;
  • River Walk;
  • Yanaguana Garden;
  • Tobin Center for the Performing Arts;
  • SeaWorld San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas;
  • Market Square;
  • Pearl Brewery; and
  • Historic neighborhoods including King William, Mahncke Park and Monte Vista.

In recent years we have also become a top destination for conventions, hosting 6.2 million business visitors annually. In 2016, our new Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and Hemisfair area are scheduled to be completed.


The South Texas Medical Center is a major cluster of healthcare facilities, with 45 institutions and supporting facilities, including 12 hospitals, five specialty institutions and the University of Texas Health Science Center, a leading health education center. The San Antonio Military Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston is the largest military hospital in the United States and the only Level 1 Trauma Center, bringing in patients and their families from all over the world.

The Military

We’re known as “Military City, USA.” The US military has been active in San Antonio for over 300 years. Currently, we’re home to three major bases, Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base and Randolph Air Force Base. Along with eight other operating areas and the almost 30,000-acre Camp Bullis training camp, these facilities together form the largest joint base operations for the Department of Defense. The facilities house major cybersecurity, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services. Additionally, NSA Texas/the Texas Cryptologic Center are located in northwest San Antonio.


More than 160,000 students attend the 15 higher education institutions located within 50 miles our city, including: the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA); the growing Texas A&M University-San Antonio; the UT Health Science Center; Texas State University; Trinity University; University of the Incarnate Word (UIW); St. Mary’s University; Our Lady of the Lake University; Wayland Baptist University; Texas Lutheran University; and the Alamo Community College District with its five colleges.

UCSF Regional Center Planning: San Francisco, California

Since the early 2000s, the University of California San Francisco’s (UCSF) Mission Bay Campus has transformed a mostly-vacant former rail yard into a state-of-the-art biotechnology campus. Today, UCSF is an economic engine for San Francisco, as well as the anchor of the city’s largest urban development in several decades. Mission Bay’s success is largely due to cooperation and collaboration between the university, the City, landowners and the surrounding community. Strategic land and space planning is contributing to the rapid growth of the Mission Bay Campus, the surrounding neighborhoods and the biotechnology industry in San Francisco. The master planning process allowed the City to work with UCSF to: foster regional development in the biotechnology industry; create a supportive mixed-use development program; and engage the community to minimize potential neighborhood impacts of Mission’s Bay development. Regional center planning that incorporates increased development flexibility available in mixed-use centers, an expanded appetite for density in key areas and a more robust approach to regional transit will yield fiscal, environmental, mobility and social benefits for the City and its residents and businesses.