Houston’s efforts to brand itself as a world-class city often come in for ridicule, some deserved and some not so much. But Houston is way farther down the path of international prominence than our neighbor to the west, San Antonio. Evan Smith highlights a bit from an interview to be published in their upcoming issue with the newly-elected Mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro.
What do you do about luring companies to San Antonio and keeping them there? There are a number of major corporations headquartered in the city, but the loss of AT&T to Dallas last year had to hurt. What kind of package can you put together to attract and retain their kind?
A couple of things. First, we’re going to keep refining our economic development model. We have dozens of development entities right now, and we are going to look at how we can streamline that process and create a web presence–an informational portal of entry for San Antonio along the lines of what Houston and Phoenix do. Second, we need to get back to what Mayor [Henry] Cisneros did so well in the eighties, which was to raise the profile of the city. If you watch the Today show or CNN when they do the weather, you’d think San Antonio didn’t exist.
I have a distinct memory from college, being at home during Christmas break and freezing my butt off, checking the weather listing in the newspaper each day so I’d know just how much warmer I’d be if I were back at school. The New York Daily News weather page had a listing for San Antonio, but I’ve seen papers that didn’t. It really is weird.
It’s the seventh-largest city in the country. Is there problem that I don’t know about?
Whatever it is, we’re going to fix it.
Do you hire people to help market the city? Do you get more aggressive in publicizing things going on? Because obviously you want to spend your time on substance, and marketing isn’t really substance. Or at least it doesn’t have the same impact.
I like to think it does. If you’re a graduate of Yale or the University of Michigan or the University of Chicago and you think about where the jobs are, oftentimes there’s opportunity in San Antonio that you wouldn’t know about. We can’t even fathom how much of a talent investment we’re missing out on. So we’re going to get on the road, get with companies, write letters to media outlets, and do all the practical things we need to. Over time, we’ll get into the national conversation about up-and-coming cities.
San Antonio has some assets that Houston doesn’t. It has a much stronger sense of history and heritage, it’s a genuine tourist destination, and it’s a truly beautiful place that’s very close to some even more beautiful countryside. It’s a love-at-first-sight kind of place, where Houston is much more of an acquired taste. It may be the seventh most populous city in America, but it’s not crowded and it doesn’t sprawl out all over the place (not yet, anyway); it’s only the 37th largest TV market as a result, which probably contributes to its lower profile overall. I don’t know what I’d do in Mayor Castro’s place to raise that profile, but I’m confident that it can be done. It really has a lot going for it, and if I couldn’t live here it would be my first choice for where to move.