Port San Antonio Considers Innovation Center on Former Air Force Base

San Antonio—As one business development group begins work on a new “innovation center” for life science and tech startups near downtown San Antonio, TX, another Alamo City organization has said it may develop a second innovation and education center in the southwest part of town.

Port San Antonio, which was established as a public entity at the turn of the century to attract new businesses and jobs by redeveloping a former 1,900-acre Air Force base, is considering a plan to build out a 130,000-square-foot industrial facility that it hopes might include co-working and maker spaces, a showroom, a museum, conference rooms, and more for businesses working in advanced tech industries such as aerospace, cybersecurity, defense, manufacturing, and supply chain logistics, among others. The organization released a proposal about the plan this month, and Port San Antonio warns that the plan is still in its early stages, and may change. The group hasn’t released details on next steps or how it might fund the work.

Port San Antonio leaders hope that the center would give a chance for local businesses, government officials, academic institutions, and larger commercial and industrial entities to connect and showcase the technologies they’re developing, and potentially work together, the organization says in a proposal it released last week. The Port’s proposal says it could get the first phase of the development operating as soon as 2020.

Earlier this month, VelocityTX, the innovation arm of the nonprofit business development organization Texas Research & Technology Foundation, broke ground on an innovation center of its own. The group announced local life sciences nonprofit GenCure would be the first tenant in the facility, which will also house a venture incubator, a military medical research facility, a hotel, a 400-space parking garage, and a six-story office building with a community space.

Business leaders and elected officials in San Antonio have been looking for means to bolster the local business community, particularly innovative startups in tech and life sciences. That includes everything from government agencies offering organizations grants if they create jobs (VelocityTX received a $750,000 grant that’s partly tied to job creation) to groups like Port San Antonio encouraging the development of nonprofits like SAMSOC, which aims to support local cybersecurity businesses.

Port San Antonio has for years been discussing building out a space where cybersecurity and other advanced technology companies could connect with one another and, potentially, government agencies, including military units like the 24th Air Force, a division of the U.S. Cyber Command that directs cybersecurity for the Air Force. Port officials have also discussed a “cyber proving ground,” which would let the Air Force and other agencies test out cybersecurity technologies from companies and academics that don’t necessarily have the security clearance of repeat contractors.

That may come as part of the innovation center project that the Port is considering. The organization said its current customers have expressed interest in classified and secure facilities that would allow for research, testing, and other operational activities.

Other plans include potentially developing another 120,000-square-foot facility for testing and fabricating prototypes, according to the proposal.

Port San Antonio has numerous high-profile tenants that rent space on its 1,900 acres, including Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Northrop Grumman in the cybersecurity space. Other local businesses and startups who are tenants include IPSecure and Plus One Robotics.

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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