San Antonio - A Mixed Bag

 steve patti
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Star Rating 10/1/2009
It is interesting to read many of the reviews on Sperling's to look for biases that can influence a truly objective review. For instance, anyone living in a place 25 years or more is probably not traveled enough (or has established their roots where they are) that they are going to see things very differently that someone with more exposure to the US or even international cities. From a disclosure standpoint, I'm 45, a father of two kids, have two degrees (BBA, MBA), have Fortune 500 experience, and have built a successful entrepreneurial business. I say this not to gloat (I give God the glory for the blessing) but to assist readers in knowing my bias/views. I've lived in New England, upstate NY, the UK, Houston, and Dallas -- and I've made several dozen international business trips to Europe.

My family decided to leave the vanity/materialism, traffic, and pace of Dallas to create some life balance in a city area that has a more laid-back atmosphere. Like most in Texas, we'd done the river walk, Sea World, etc. and been captivated by the Hispanic influence and friendliness in the city. So, we sold the home and moved to a cute rural town outside San Antonio with my home-based business intact (that was 2007).

The global economic meltdown meant the crash of my business at the end of 2008 -- thus, I needed to look for a job. In Dallas, I could access nearly 40 Fortune 500 headquarters with a wide variety of industry options for a veteran marketer like me. Here in SA it is very different and boy did I underestimate this during the "love affair" of moving here. USAA is the only Fortune 500 employer left in town (AT&T relocated their HQ and most of the good jobs with it in early 2009). There are only entry-level positions (under $50K) in service/retail industries (great if you're single, but you're not supporting a family of four properly) and industry sectors are confined to: real estate, tourism, military, and medical. If you're not in one of these four industries you will STARVE here.

The education here is lower, the wages are 15% below national average (job for job) in white collar professional jobs. I have talked to at least a dozen other dads at our kids school who electively relocated their families to SA and in every situation they are either being paid under industry average -- or when they've had to seek other jobs the jobs are just not there. It's laughable, do a search on "Director" or "Marketing" on, Linked In Jobs, or and see 1 employer (KCI) come up in the search. Try that for Dallas, Atlanta, Austin, etc. and see multiple pages of search returns. Crime in the Hill Country towns is minimal, but SA suffers from some levels gang violence this is attributable to low education, illegal aliens, etc. that is unfortunately part of the stereotype.

City leaders have no vision for bringing the city into the 21st century. For a population of 1.2MM people, the airport is a joke (smaller than Chicago Midway or Dallas Love Field -- both regional airports), and everything in this city is named "Alamo" (e.g. Alamo Cleaners, Alamo Pediatrics, Alamo Burgers, etc.) The entire city identity is wrapped up in driving people to expensive restaurants along the river walk. Look, I'm all for heritage and every city in the US has neat heritage, but you can't define the future of the city by banking on 24MM tourists to spend money at hotels and restaurants every year (these are low paying jobs that don't bring economic prosperity to a city). The lack of airport, employee pool, etc. is one reason why San Antonio can win a Toyota truck plant but they can't keep AT&T (or any other high paying employer).

From a "raising your kids" standpoint -- hands down, this beats Dallas, Houston, etc. Communities are friendly, the hills are beautiful along I-10, churches are small/welcoming, and there is adequate shopping, restaurants, etc. Cost of living is low compared to other Texas cities.

However -- unless you're in military, tourism, or medical be prepared that San Antonio is "a place where careers go to die." We're not sure we'll be here in 2010 given the lack of opportunity and the need to survive so I really feel bad for those with less education and job experience than I have.



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