South Texas Triangle Op–Ed
9. As the Texas-Mexico axis booms, San Antonio is in spotlight. Why it matters, what it means
Dr. Alberto Gómez
5 min read
9. As the Texas-Mexico axis booms, San Antonio is in spotlight. Why it matters, what it means

As the Texas-Mexico axis booms, San Antonio is in spotlight. Why it matters, what it means.

San Antonio’s steady economic expansion and its status as one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities have placed it under the spotlight.

In the Opinion series San Antonio Forward, a host of guest writers have examined the challenges and opportunities ahead for San Antonio and the greater South Texas region that extends to Northern Mexico, a region we have dubbed the South Texas Triangle. Many of these writers have advocated for a renewed focus to the south to unlock the full potential of San Antonio.

The commentaries have highlighted economic and demographic trends, as well as infrastructure needs, and interpreted the implications of these changes and policies.

There are two tales of any city: the statistical and the impressionistic. The latter is the perception each individual, visitor or resident has of a particular city. When statistical evidence challenges an individual’s impression, it can be surprising, yet both perspectives are valuable.

In narrating the story of San Antonio, we must reconcile the statistical data, such as high poverty rates and economic inequality, with the rich, personal impressions of residents and visitors.

Both in numbers and impressions, San Antonio’s future is exciting. In part, because as we turn our attention to the South Texas Triangle, we uncover a distinctive opportunity to enhance regional collaboration. A recent book, Peter Zeihan’s “The End of the World is Just the Beginning,” about shifts in global paradigms, highlights the Texas-Mexico axis due to its many regional advantages; it merges the technological sophistication of Japan with the wage variation of China, and the integration seen in Germany with its neighbors — all within the footprint of the world’s largest consumption market.

Moreover, just south of the border, Nuevo León has emerged as Mexico’s nearshoring champion, capturing 76% of all foreign investments in the country. As production ramps up in Mexico, traffic flows through Port Laredo, the globe’s busiest inland port, coursing northward along Interstate 35 through San Antonio, and then to the rest of the United States and Canada.

 Yet this growth introduces challenges for cities along I-35  as supply chain activity leads to congestion and environmental concerns. Addressing these issues through I-35 infrastructure modernization is essential for sustained development.

Innovate to build resilience

Innovation and technology will not only accelerate growth, it will also challenge our resilience. The last decade’s rapid digitization underscores the urgent need for digital literacy and high-speed internet access across South Texas. For this reason, San Antonio and cities in the region need to be proactive in preparing for the future of work by attracting new enterprises, equipping the workforce with necessary skills for Industry 4.0, and fostering continued regional collaboration to advance our competitive edge.

For instance, San Antonio’s proactive leadership is evident in initiatives such as the South Texas Alliance of Cities and collaborations with universities in Monterrey, Mexico. A recent visit by a San Antonio delegation sparked programs such as a joint cybersecurity master’s degree with the University of Texas at San Antonio and TEC de Monterrey, and a nursing pathway with Alamo Colleges District and Tecmilenio, boosting the upskilling of health care workers in Latin America.

Collaborations between public, private and academic sectors have fueled the world’s most successful economic stories.  Silicon Valley, Finland and Singapore, for example,  have achieved exceptional rates of innovation by organizing these industries to tackle local economic, social and environmental issues. Why not the South Texas Triangle?

Alongside these collaborative efforts, it’s crucial to recognize the demographic shifts and entrepreneurial spirit fueling our region’s expansion. South Texas has experienced population and employment growth. But despite the vital role of Latinos in the region, social inequality remains pervasive

Nevertheless, Latinos have notably led business creation over the past 12 years, outpacing other groups and substantially boosting their wealth. Also, as we anticipate more than 1 million Latino college graduates nationally in the next decade, our cities must ensure the infrastructure is in place to capture this burgeoning workforce's potential.

As a result, supporting Latino entrepreneurs is key to advancing innovation and economic growth in the region. This entrepreneurial spirit is echoed in the regional initiatives that Geekdom and Alamo Angels are advancing, which are pivotal in harnessing and nurturing underdeveloped talent.

Embracing challenges

As we look toward a future where the city of San Antonio’s population exceeds 2 million, the challenges of infrastructure, energy, water and food security loom large, intensified by climate trends.

The potential for transitioning to clean energy within the South Texas region is immense, offering a beacon of hope and innovation.

However, these topics are vast and complex, deserving a deeper exploration than what we can accommodate in the limited scope of this series. The intricate tapestry of issues we’ve begun to unravel here beckons further discussion, a journey of discovery that goes beyond the confines of this series.

 As we reach the conclusion of San Antonio Forward, let us pause, not because the conversation ends but because it is just beginning. Stay engaged, for there is much more to explore and the future of our region depends on the continuation of this vital dialogue.

The San Antonio Forward series has shed light on the dynamic growth and challenges facing our region. Through our exploration of San Antonio’s economic expansion, demographic shifts and infrastructure challenges, we’ve uncovered the immense potential and pressing needs of the South Texas Triangle.

Now is the time to turn words into action. The Better Futures Institute, a new think tank advancing technological innovation and civic engagement, is leading this initiative, but our success hinges on your participation.

We invite you to participate in our workshops that address key issues from the series, partner with us on research or engage in our STEAM internship program, a direct response to the urgent need for skilled professionals in our rapidly evolving jobs landscape.  Your involvement is crucial in shaping the future of the South Texas Triangle.

Together, let’s build on the insights gained and forge a path toward sustainable, inclusive cities.

Alberto Gomez is a San Antonio-based entrepreneur, CEO of Better Futures Institute, co-founder of the tech firm Irys and a guest scholar at Urban Future Lab.

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