Bexar County netted 34,000 new jobs and saw a lower unemployment rate than most of Texas last year, but the county has work to do in creating a “choice-driven” public transit system and spurring workforce development, County Judge Nelson Wolff said Wednesday.
Wolff, in his State of the County address to about 500 guests at a North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce luncheon, revealed plans for a county-funded partnership with the chamber in which veterans and their families at the county’s transition center will be connected with employers and job training agencies for free.
“One of the best opportunities lies with the veterans that are transferring out of the military,” Wolff said. “We want those veterans after they’re discharged to stay in Bexar County.”
Service officers at the transition center will begin customizing a “plan of action” for each military member and their family six months before discharge. Through the partnership, the chamber plans to then identify “key industries and specific San Antonio-based companies in need of workforce,” then link those companies with the county’s military transition program.
The mix of skills at local bases, from technical to management, means the program isn’t intended to focus on any one industry, said Precinct 3 Commissioner Kevin Wolff, who has spearheaded the effort.
“That’s one of the reasons why we partnered with the North Chamber, because it encompasses all levels of employers and types of jobs,” Kevin Wolff said. “We want their help in making sure that we connect with those local employers here in the county.”
In his October State of the County address, Nelson Wolff focused on the need to recruit new businesses to San Antonio and develop a skilled workforce, with a tone that seemed to urge a call to action.
On Wednesday, Wolff outlined several ongoing projects, from University Health System’s Women and Children’s Hospital to the county’s magistration, intake and assessment center, both of which are in progress.
But he also looked ahead to several new areas, including the county’s upcoming legal syringe exchange program and developments at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
The city and county should do “all we can,” Wolff said, to help UTSA President Taylor Eighmy build a “national security collaboration center” — intended to encompass private sector tech firms and cyber agencies — at the downtown campus. Wolff also voiced support for the university’s planned school of data science, which almost 5,000 students will attend, he said.
Near the beginning of his speech, Wolff also appealed to the state to chip in funding for local highway improvements.
The county needs more projects, like ongoing construction to expand Loop 1604, to account for the San Antonio metro area’s burgeoning population, and the state “is not meeting its obligations to keep our highway system in top shape,” Wolff said.
He acknowledged to reporters after the speech that there’s no reason to believe the state is willing to kick in more money — “but we still need to try.”
“If they don’t, then that means our public transit even has to be better,” Wolff said.
Building off Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s announcement of a new transportation-promoting nonprofit at his State of the City address last month, Wolff touted the Commissioners Court’s recent appointment of three new, young members to the VIA board. He also encouraged VIA to “re-allocate resources” for a micro-transit system, which generally partners with private companies such as Lyft shuttles and on-demand bus services for shorter and more direct trips.
“We need a consumer and choice-driven public transit system focused on mobility, innovation, frequency, efficiency and decongestion,” Wolff said. “The current fixed-route bus system must evolve into a truly multi-modal system.”
Article originally published by San Antonio Express-News – Jasper Scherer