Mayor Ivy Taylor is early into a nearly weeklong trip where she seeks to enhance economic opportunities between San Antonio and Mexico and to promote the city’s economic strength among her counterparts from around the country.
The mayor is currently in Nashville for the National League of Cities (NLC) 2015 Congress of Cities and Exposition. The organization backs strengthening the capacity of local governance and supports the interests of local communities.
Taylor departed San Antonio on Wednesday afternoon shortly after a press conference where she and other city officials joined Bexar County leaders to announce the City and Bexar County’s plan to purchase Toyota Field from San Antonio Scorpions owner Gordon Hartman.
As part of the deal, Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E), the parent company of the San Antonio Spurs and San Antonio Rampage, will have a 20-year lease to operate Toyota Field with a goal of luring an MLS franchise to town.
Taylor said the move involving Toyota Field shows San Antonio’s commitment to do what is necessary to diversify its expanding economy and to continue to raise the city’s profile on a national level.
“I always relish the opportunity to interact with folks from all over the nation and to tell them about what we’re doing in San Antonio,” Taylor told the Rivard Report from Nashville on Thursday.
Taylor is a member of the NLC’s Nominating Committee, which will recommend officers and board members to will run the group in 2016. The NLC event agenda includes a reception for Texas Municipal League members Friday night. Assistant City Manager Lori Houston is due to take part in a Friday panel discussion, “Bring Your Downtown to Life!”
From October 2012 until October of this year, Houston was director of San Antonio’s Center City Development and Operations Department (CCDO). The office has been helping to facilitate and initiate development and redevelopment of neighborhoods, businesses and cultural resources in the city’s core.
Under Houston’s direction, the CCDO has overseen the early stages of major downtown area projects and programs, such as approval of the Weston Urban/Frost Bank development, and the OPEN retail shop initiative.
Mayor Taylor also spent part of her Thursday visiting First Tennessee Park, a new Triple AAA minor league baseball stadium built for Nashville’s Pacific Coast League team, the Nashville Sounds.
The mayor texted photos from her stadium visit for publication. First Tennessee Park opened this past April, with 10,000 seating capacity. Private and public money funded construction of the stadium. The Sounds’ ownership group is investing $50 million into a mixed-use and retail development to anchor the facility. Taylor said it was good to visit the stadium to understand how it was financed and how it may affect the immediate area.
The final segment of Mayor Taylor’s trip, Sunday through Tuesday will have her leading a delegation of nearly 50 people to Mexico City, as part of the “San Antonio to Mexico DF Trade and Economic Development Mission.”
During the trip, Taylor will sign an economic development pact between San Antonio and the Mexican capital, focusing on renewable energy and shale gas development. Mexico City has similar agreements with Chicago and Los Angeles. The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC) puts together this annual business trip to Mexico. Hispanic Chamber President and CEO Ramiro Cavazos told the Rivard Report while “San Antonio is a very Mexican city,” the ties between the city and Mexico go beyond the realms of diplomacy, history and commerce.
The City and the Hispanic Chamber partnered with Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos, Frost Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and the Mexican State of Querétaro to organize the trip. Dr. Esteban Lopez, regional president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, is chairing this year’s trade mission.
“I am excited to further solidify our friendship and relationship with Mexico City by participating in an economic development agreement with Mexico City’s Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera,” said Mayor Taylor in a press release. “Both this yearly trade mission by the Hispanic Chamber and our economic development agreement exemplify San Antonio’s continued commitment to trade and investment with Mexico.”
According to Cavazos, this year’s trip is particularly significant because a newly elected mayor, Taylor, has a chance to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who first took office in December 2012. The last time a San Antonio mayor joined the Hispanic Chamber’s trip was in 2011 when then-Mayor Julián Castro talked with then-President Felipe Calderón.
“I’m excited about the opportunities there. Mexico recently changed its laws covering the country’s oil and gas industries, and we want to be able to take advantage of that,” Taylor told the Rivard Report. She referenced how, within the last two years, Peña Nieto has signed historic constitutional reforms that open up the country’s oil, natural gas, and power sectors to private investment.
The new agreement is in line with the Global Cities Initiative for which San Antonio was chosen to join in 2012 as one of the initial six U.S. cities. The Global Cities Initiative is a five-year project involving the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase, which have a goal of attracting more foreign direct investment, and providing new jobs and economic growth for the San Antonio metropolitan area.
Additionally, the Eagle Ford shale formation that has helped to spur an oil and gas boom in South Texas stretches into northern Mexico’s Burgos Basin, accounting for two-thirds of Mexico’s shale gas resources. The Mexican Ministry of Energy has estimated it will take $100 billion in investments over the next 10 years to develop those shale resources. Mexico is also estimated to contain 13 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil resources.
“The new agreement means a great opportunity for job creation and investment, for San Antonio companies to do more business in Mexico,” Cavazos said. Aside from Taylor, this year’s Hispanic Chamber trip involves several other city officials, such City council members Roberto Treviño (D1) and Alan Warrick (D2) as well as Rene Dominguez, director of the city’s Economic Development Department.
Various regional businesses, educational institutions, law firms and key economic development players, such as NuStar Energy, the Brooks Development Authority, Port San Antonio and Tech Bloc, will be represented on trip.
Natural resources will not get all of the attention in the Hispanic Chamber trip. Delegation members will also talk with their Mexican counterparts about innovation and research, education and human capital, as well as a knowledge and innovation exchange. These discussions will cover aerospace, manufacturing, biotechnology, information technology, energy and tourism, among other industries that are expanding both in San Antonio and in Mexico. Aside from exploring business opportunities and maintaining trade relations, the delegation hopes to learn about best practices for local initiatives and encourage company relocations to South Texas and San Antonio.
In 2014, San Antonio was the 12th largest metropolitan area exporter in the United States. Mexico imported more than $4 billion in products and services from San Antonio-area businesses in the same year.
“That’s how much of a strong presence we have (in Mexico),” Cavazos said.
City leaders at the trip are due to help inaugurate Casa San Antonio’s new trade office at the historic former Mexican Stock Exchange, Bolsa de Valores, and take part in an evening reception at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence with the Border Trade Alliance.
San Antonio opened its first Casa San Antonio foreign trade office in Guadalajara in 1991. The Casa San Antonio program helps companies interested in exporting products and services to Mexico while facilitating imports and investment opportunities by developing global partnerships. A third foreign trade office is located in Monterrey.
“The area is already a center of trade, and companies there conduct extensive global operations,” Cavazos said.
He hopes Mayor Taylor has a chance to visit with President Nieto at a Monday gala hosted by the American Jewish Council and the Central Committee of the Jewish Community in Mexico. There, attendees will honor former Mayor Henry Cisneros for his efforts to connect Latino and Jewish communities in San Antonio and into Mexico.
City leaders also will meet with Claudia Ruiz Massieu, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, and other delegation members will attend a program hosted by the Mexico City National Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to heading for Mexico, Mayor Taylor will visit Hilton Head, South Carolina, joining 24 other women elected to state and local offices for a gathering organized by the Governing Institute.
Taylor and her counterparts were chosen for the institute’s Women in Government Leadership Program Class of 2016. The February 2016 issue of Governing magazine will profile the 25 class members.
The program members will take part in Governing Institute events throughout 2016, including a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C. in January, and another leadership retreat in the summer 2016. Taylor is representing Texas at the institute’s program along with state Rep. Carol Alvarado (Dist. 145) of Houston.
*Top image: Mayor Ivy Taylor poses for a photo during the 19th annual Walk & Roll Rally. Photo by Scott Ball.