As San Antonians know well, for decades Kelly was a place of life-changing opportunities. At Kelly, thousands of civilians maintained and modernized our nation’s military aircraft. Scores of mechanics, engineers and support personnel ran the massive operation—which was a place of great jobs.
Being part of Kelly meant turning dreams into reality, including home ownership and putting kids through collegQe.
My own mother-in-law was part of that history. Victoria Alderete was a “Kelly Katie” during World War 2—among the women who did their part on the home front. Like my husband Joe and I, families across town have stories of their own proud connections to that legacy.
Today, 1,900 acres that spanned Kelly continue as Port San Antonio. More than 20 years since Kelly’s closure, our Board of Directors and the team running the Port have been laser-focused on reimagining this special place for the century ahead.
I am thrilled to report that, with a lot of hard work and the support of partners across our community, we’ve seen unprecedented growth as we connect people with life-changing opportunities in careers, education and as entrepreneurs.
Since 2018, with our support, more than 80 tenant customers have created nearly 4,000 additional jobs on the campus, including over 1,000 jobs in advanced technologies last year alone. This brings the Port’s workforce to more than 14,000 today. That activity contributes more than $5 billion to our economy annually—supporting thousands of additional jobs, including restaurants, retailers and other small businesses.
This success is the result of the Board’s strategic plan, which we call Tech Port. It is focused on playing to San Antonio’s strengths as a leading place of innovations in defense, cybersecurity, aviation, medicine, robotics and other fields. Each day, we work on growing collaborations that develop new technologies in San Antonio that are then used across the world.
Leading employers like Boeing, StandardAero and others have been doing this for over 20 years as thousands of their employees continue Kelly’s legacy modernizing military aircraft and now adding commercial airliners as well.
Tech Port also grows local companies. They include CNF Technologies, IPSecure, Reckon Point, Plus One Robotics, Knight Aerospace and others. Many are women- and Hispanic-owned. In fact, cybersecurity leaders like IPSecure and CNF Technologies at the Port were founded by former Kelly employees.
A central part of Tech Port is empowering people with skills in advanced fields. This is why we are very focused in developing multiple paths to connect educators and students—from all levels—with industries thriving here.
The cornerstone of this effort is the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT). Since launching at the Port in 2017, thousands of students have been inspired by exciting STEM/STEAM programs, including model rocket launches, robotics, cybersecurity simulations, and design activities.
With our support, SAMSAT recently added a tech training center so adults—especially those who lost their jobs in the hospitality and other industries hit hard by COVID—will be empowered with new talent to access in-demand tech careers. We are also cementing relationships with UTSA, Alamo Colleges, A&M San Antonio and others as essential partners supporting research, internships and educational programs tied to industries here.
We are now taking this work to the next level. A new state-of-the-art innovation center approved by the Board last summer will open in 2022. It will bAe a fun environment for families with exciting spaces that will scale these activities, including expanding the SAMSAT’s offerings to highlight San Antonio’s latest technologies and how to access jobs in these fields. It will also include a large event arena, a food hall for families to gather, esports gaming, tech competitions and more.
We are honored by our Kelly heritage and what it has meant for so many in San Antonio, and we are excited about the road ahead as we help transform our community’s economic landscape for today’s and future generations.
We truly appreciate La Prensa’s invitation to share our journey. We look forward to keeping readers informed of the great opportunities ahead for you and your families.
Photo Caption (Victoria Alderete shown on the back of a truck as the forklift she operated at Kelly was transported from one location to another. She was a “Kelly Katie” during World War 2. Like her, thousands of San Antonio families trace their history to the former Kelly Air Force Base. www.portsanantonio.us )