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San Antonio Wants to Become Cyber Capital of Texas

Local leaders have frequently tossed out a new nickname for San Antonio — Cyber City USA — and Gov. Greg Abbott recently got on board, calling San Antonio the "cybersecurity capital of the state of Texas."

San Antonio
(TNS) — It's catching on.

While San Antonio has long been known as Military City USA, many civic leaders in recent years have frequently tossed out another nickname — Cyber City USA.

Gov. Greg Abbott recently got on board the bandwagon, calling San Antonio the "cybersecurity capital of the state of Texas."

Abbott's shoutout came while he was speaking at Port San Antonio last month to announce that Boeing had bought the naming rights to the concert and esports venue there — now called Boeing Center at Tech Port. His public acknowledgment of the city's cyber prowess drew applause from the hundreds of local politicians, business leaders and military officials in attendance.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who also spoke at the Boeing announcement, said the governor was "spot on" in branding San Antonio as a cybersecurity hub.

"I would take it one step further and say that San Antonio is a cybersecurity capital of the country when it comes to public and private sector jobs and talent and future forward planning outside of the Washington (D.C.) region," Nirenberg said. "We have the academic institutions and the Defense Department contingent, as well as private sector companies that are thriving in this area, and we have made strategic investments so that momentum continues to grow."

Nirenberg and local business and military leaders have been highlighting that the city's tech scene includes private cybersecurity businesses such as Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton that support Defense Department online operations. The Port is adjacent to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, where the 16th Air Force, known as Air Forces Cyber, is based.

While San Antonio lacks the prevalence of Fortune 500 tech headquarters found in Austin or Silicon Valley, the city has the most cybersecurity workers outside of the Washington, D.C., area.

At least 16,447 cybersecurity professionals work for the federal government, a figure accounting for one-third of San Antonio's 48,000-plus information technology workers, according to a 2022 study by the Port and Tech Bloc, a tech advocacy group. And the largest share of that total work at Port San Antonio.

Meanwhile, the University of Texas at San Antonio and other higher education institutions have been developing undergraduate and graduate cybersecurity programs.

Abbott said the cybersecurity "expertise" in San Antonio helped Texas land the Army Futures Command headquarters in Austin.

The Defense Department, infamously known for being slow to adopt new technology, had long been courting tech companies and academics across the state to help it with research and development. In 2018, the military established the command's headquarters in the University of Texas System building in downtown Austin to focus on ways to speed the development and deployment of weapons.

A year later, the Army Applications Laboratory, part of the Futures Command, moved into Capital Factory's office in Austin. The partnership inspired the venture capital firm to launch its Center for Defense Innovation, which it expanded at the Boeing Center in September.

"The Army Futures Command ... could have gone to any state in the United States," Abbott said. "But they chose Texas, in part, because of the cybersecurity talent that we have right here in San Antonio."

City Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia, whose District 4 includes Port San Antonio, said the governor's shoutout "is a testament" to local efforts — which she believe have "gone under the radar" — to strengthen the city's cybersecurity industry.

"We have great institutions that are doing tremendous work in cybersecurity," she said.

Abbott said such work is part of the state's strong position in tech-related industries, citing the presence of Samsung, Tesla, SpaceX, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Boeing.

" San Antonio is a cornerstone of this success," he said.

© 2023 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.