Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
A Prague-based business process service company announced Monday it will open its U.S. headquarters at Brooks, with plans to offer more than 1,400 jobs locally.
Gov. Greg Abbott joined Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and local leaders and officials from Brooks at Hangar 9 on Monday to welcome OKIN Business Process Services to the South Side.
For more than 14 years, OKIN has been providing information technology services such as project management, multilingual customer support, and cloud and and security expertise. Operating mostly in Europe, the company is ranked among the biggest and fastest growing Czech Republic-based service providers on the global market and has been expanding worldwide.
Michal Jelinek, OKIN's majority owner, told a crowd of nearly 100 at the press conference that his company spent nearly two years studying a handful of U.S. cities for its stateside corporate expansion. OKIN plans to invest nearly $23 million in its new U.S. headquarters.
Wolff called OKIN's plans a "game-changer for San Antonio."
"For an international company to make its national headquarters right here in San Antonio, that sends a tremendous message across this world that San Antonio is for real, that San Antonio is on the move," he said.
Jelinek said San Antonio's growth, location, and increasingly diverse workforce all were factors in the decision to locate here. OKIN will gradually fill the 1,400-plus jobs, he said, depending on the availability of office space at Brooks and the company's needs.
If all goes as planned, the first round of hiring could happen within three months, Jelinek told the Rivard Report after the news conference.
"The way my company works, we hire people with junior experience – college education or high school education, with no specific training," Jelinek explained. "We put them through specially-crafted training and turn them into people who can do jobs in IT."
During the press conference, Jelinek cited the "spirit of San Antonio," or an increasing number of skilled professionals ready to help a company such as his expand, as another reason why OKIN chose San Antonio.
"They're eager to do something dynamic, and that's super important for our business," he said.
Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, told the Rivard Report that San Antonio and Bexar County began talking about OKIN's plans one year ago through the company's site selection consultants.
"This kind of corporate operation would hire human resource professionals, accountants, senior executives, public relations professionals, etc.," she said. "So it is important we have that skilled labor to fill those needs."
Nirenberg said OKIN's announcement is further proof that San Antonio is prepared to host corporate headquarters for a range of companies.
"San Antonio is ready. We're always ready and primed to compete globally for business investment, and for OKIN BPS choosing to open its U.S. headquarters in our city is a testament to the success that is just now coming to our city."
A native South Sider, Wolff said OKIN's plans will help boost Brooks and the surrounding area as centers of economic development and job growth.
"I never really thought I'd live long enough to see the revival of the South Side thanks to Brooks," he said.
As part of OKIN's plans, Brooks will use funding from the Brooks Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone to refurbish two historic structures, which will serve as "starter offices" and allow OKIN and Brooks one year to figure out where and how develop up to 200,000 square feet of permanent office space on campus.
Brooks President and CEO Leo Gomez said restoring these structures will also activate this part of the Brooks Historic Hill District.
"What you see here is the potential to develop the balance of that district," he said.
OKIN will receive a $6.6 million grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund as part of its local plans. City Council and County Commissioners Court are considering separate packages to help finalize incentives for the company. Details of those packages have not been yet released.
Abbott credited the City and County's economic development teams for their efforts to land OKIN's U.S. corporate campus in San Antonio.
"In Texas, we've created a business-friendly environment that attracts businesses like OKIN," Abbott said. "As a result, our economy is stronger than it has ever been."
Saucedo-Herrera said OKIN's decision is an example of the strategy her organization and its partners have employed to try and lure such employers.
"We're always looking to secure these kinds of high-wage, high-skill jobs for our community, for San Antonians," she added.