Stickin’ Around: Why I’m Staying in San Antonio

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Say happy birthday to Garrett Heath. The Rackspace blogger turned 30 today.  Garrett is the kind of guy who makes everyone else feel like a slacker. He must run on a stronger set of batteries. By day, he’s a content marketer at Rackspace. That means he actually gets paid to be on a team of bloggers who write about all things Rackspace. I first came across Garrett when someone showed me his Average Joe in San Antonio food blog. “I like cheese and gravy,” Garrett told me when we met. “I don’t think you and I necessarily go to the same places.” That’s not really true. Click on his link and you’ll find his recent recommendations for eating downtown. We both like Luke and the Esquire.

When Garrett used his Average Joe blog to respond to a recent posting on The Rivard Report, we asked to share his viewpoint with our audience.  

A West Texas native, (born in Amarillo, raised in Lubbock, earned a B.S. and MS in industrial engineering at Texas Tech University), Garrett has lived in some good places to give him perspective well beyond Texas, including stints in Chicago, Memphis, and Sevilla, Spain. He came to San Antonio after finishing school and held a couple of different jobs. One involved a lot of travel that gave him a newfound appreciation for our city. He joined Rackspace in 2008, left for another venture for eight months, and then came back. He and his fiancée recently bought a house in Mahnke Park, which will put them within easy walking distance of the new Children’s Museum when it opens in 2015.

Garrett Heath

by Garrett Heath

There was an interesting piece by Callie Enlow on the Rivard Report (the recently launched blog/website by former SAEN editor Bob Rivard) that talked about Why People Leave San Antonio. This article was an insightful look at why people move to a different city, and while I can agree with some points there are others that I feel she missed.

Enlow is on point with the types of jobs that are available in San Antonio. While we are looking to net roughly 275,000 jobs by 2022, she cites a report that only a small amount of them (25,000 – 50,000 jobs) are what she terms “knowledge based.” While this may be what the reports are saying, there is a shift that is happening to the urban core that is going to be a huge draw for jobs and people.

In the Pearl complex, condos are going up quicker than the city’s collective BAC during Fiesta. But the Pearl is just the beginning. Go a couple of blocks East to Broadway and you will see other apartments/condos being built. Go a couple blocks South to Quincy and there is more construction. With all this construction in the core, San Antonio is setting itself up for an urban renaissance similar to that seen in Fort Worth.

While the urban construction is a way to jumpstart interest, the next wave of jobs in San Antonio looks to be in the startup community. Just as TechStars ignited the Boulder scene, TechStars Cloud and Geekdom look to do the same to the Alamo City. If past is prologue, this shift can happen rather quickly, and in fact it is happening now.

With Rackspace being an anchor to the burgeoning tech community, the low cost of living and the willingness of movers and shakers like Graham Weston to provide an outlet like Geekdom for the tech/entrepreneur community, I predict that this city will see some amazing growth over the next three to five years. Growth that will be far more than the formal reports and research are predicting.

Enlow’s second point, that it is “downright impossible to find enough like-minded individuals for friendship, professional partnerships, or romance” rings hollow. This is the same reason that I get frustrated with shortsighted people who plaster the “Keep San Antonio Lame” bumper stickers on their cars (although I do find the actual stickers amusing). The only thing keeping San Antonio lame is the people who can’t see what is right in front of them.

San Antonio has every bit of the variety of things to do in cities like Austin, however, it is not blatantly thrown out in front of you. While there may not be a concentration of venues like 6th Street at present time, there are tons of great places to hear live music. Our art scene is world-class with contemporary galleries congregated in one place like Blue Star and other galleries along the South Flores area, not to mention the very unique Artpace. This is all in addition to the more stately McNay Art Museum and San Antonio Art Museum.

The culinary scene has some of the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants anywhere around coupled with a group of restaurateurs/chefs who are producing some amazing food. The waistlines of San Antonians can attest to the quality of the food in our city; however, with the advent of ambitious park and trail systems like the Leon Creek and Salado Creek Greenways, even that is changing. Our city is getting more fit.

Meeting people is challenging for younger people in a post-college life in almost any city without a dense urban core. It comes down to the fact that you are being removed from a large, diverse population where you can choose friends just as easily as getting a piece of pizza from the $6 CiCi’s buffet, and thrown into the working world where you have to be proactive to make new connections. For those of who are non-married without kids, this can be difficult.

Fortunately, being in a big city can temper this. Have a passion? Find a Meetup. Are you entrepreneurial and love software? Join Geekdom (ok – yes, it’s another shameless plug, but I am a proud member of this organization). Enjoy races and marathons? Join a running group. Like to drink? Go to a bar. Want to run and drink? Join a pub run. Want to drink and learn about the Lord? Check out Beer and Bible Study. With a city the size of San Antonio, there are many groups to explore your interests (or combinations of interests).

Yes, the public transportation isn’t the greatest, but the city is laid out in a way where traffic flows pretty evenly (outside of rush hour), and there are typically several different ways to arrive to a destination. I wonder if any of the people who complain about the public transportation have ever been on a Via bus. When I served on jury duty, the express bus from 1604 and I-10 to downtown was fast and had Wi-Fi. Additionally, Via does a great job with having park and ride service to many of the major events (such as Fiesta). I’m not saying that they have everything figured out, but the bus system is not the worst in the nation. The blue and red trolleys are an easy way to get around downtown and the San Antonio Bike Share is an option for residents to ride from Pearl to South Alamo.

The point is there is plenty to do in San Antonio and that should not be a reason for anyone to leave. The people, culture, neighborhoods, food and ethos are all amazing. Yes, I might leave this city for an opportunity that’s not available here, but it had better be a damn good one. Viva San Antonio.

Find Garrett just about everywhere, including Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Google+. Then there is his celebrated An Average Jose in San Antonio food blog,  and finally, the guy does have a serious day job as the Rackspace blogger.

9 thoughts on “Stickin’ Around: Why I’m Staying in San Antonio

  1. bravo garrett! you definitely echo my sentiments on why i love san antonio, yet often get frustrated when people lament the lack of a social scene. there are alot of efforts on the part of the city and individuals who are so passionate about making this big “small town” better, and we need more people like you to spread the word. please continue your cause!

  2. We have a small concentration of live music venues on the St Marys Strip between Dewey and 281 catering to all genres of music. Anyone who refers to its hay day clearly hasn’t been there recently. The pearl has an amphitheater not too far down the street, go a few more blocks toward downtown and you’ll hit some more, nightrocker and korova to name a few. They may not be in abundance like in Austin, but we have it.

  3. Heath, I appreciate the sentiment behind your article.  I’ve have always been a huge advocate for San Antonio, especially when I use to report on the arts and culture we are discussing here.  I would suggest actually doing a little digging on the KSAL (Keep San Antonio Lame) history and context.  You’ll find that it is not what you believe it to be.  I know you weren’t meaning to, but I take your statement on KSAL as indirectly insulting the actual people who have created a thriving  cultural community in San Antonio.

  4.  @abra schnur – I am familiar with the origin of “Keep San Antonio Lame” stickers and the intent behind it (I’ve been a patron of the Benavides Framing since I came to SA). However, it has been a long time since that piece was made, and many of the people who have come across the stickers in present time (in my opinion) have a different intent/outlook than that of the original creators.
     
    I definitely support those creating the thriving cultural community (in particular what S.M.A.R.T. is doing) and appreciate everything that they have done (as a person who is more math/science, I am always amazed by the creative people who can create and bring their ideas to life). This was just my $0.02, and I am thankful for your comment.
     
    –garrett

  5. Garrett is such a great blogger and advocate for our city.  I applaud you for picking up this post.  I read this article several times yesterday and felt a renewed sense of pride for our community. 

  6. Howdy Garrett! Cool photo of the South St. Mary’s! FWIW, the building on the right side of the photo is the Exchange Building, one of the best kept secrets of downtown. I live there. In fact, you can see my apartment in this photo, it’s the second from the top, the one with the white lampshade in the window. When I moved to San Antonio a year and a half ago, I wanted to live close enough to walk to my downtown job. From my short time here, I agree that San Antonio has a lot going for it and there’s plenty to do if you make the effort.
     
    Anecdotally, I’ve seen evidence that people are moving downtown. My significant other and I want to move up from our 600 sq/ft loft. I would love to stay downtown, but there isn’t much to choose from right now. The supply of rentals on Centro (http://centrosanantonio.com/?page_id=66) is the lowest I’ve seen since I’ve been here. Houses and condos are not much better. Checking Sabor shows that there is very little available in the downtown core. Which leads me to my second point.
     
    My greatest hope for San Antonio is that it cultivates more walkable neighborhoods. I like downtown because I can walk or bike almost anywhere I need to (grocery store notwithstanding). But San Antonio is sorely lacking in options. According to Walkscore.com, SA has zero “walker’s paradise” neighborhoods and only seven “very walkable” ‘hoods (and many of those barely make the cut). The very-walkables are a who’s-who of hot ‘hoods for the creative class: Downtown, Five Points, Tobin Hill, Lavaca, King William, and Monte Vista. Walkable neighborhoods are a huge draw for the kinds of people we want to keep in and attract to San Antonio.
     
    Housing is coming, but mostly in the form of apartments (not condos!) in the Pearl complex and Broadway corridor. That’s a start, but apartment dwellers tend to have less income and be younger and more transient. New college grads start off in apartments, but once they establish their careers and earn a little money, they want to move up. If those cool neighborhoods don’t have what they need, then they move to the suburbs. Building long-lived, culturally rich, walkable neighborhoods will require attracting permanent residents. That means building new ownership housing, i.e. new condos and single family homes, in the urban core. We’re in one of the historically worst markets for new home construction, but I hope, hope, hope it’s coming. Please people, I really don’t want to move to the burbs!
     
    Viva San Antonio!

  7. Great post, Garrett! I just want to point out that I deliberately used “could” instead of “is” when talking about how “downright impossible it could be to meet like-minded individuals…” Having just married my SA local sweetheart, it certainly would ring hollow to claim difficulty in meeting great people here 🙂 I consider myself very lucky, but that doesn’t disqualify the several people who have told me they’ve found a very difficult dating/social scene here, most of whom were heavily involved in the local music and art scenes when they lived here.

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