The huge Apple Corp. expansion in Austin can be a major boost for San Antonio's growing tech industry, but local tech leaders say the city first has to get real about the development of commuter rail between San Antonio and Austin, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Apple announced on Thursday that it is spending $1 billion on a research and development campus in Austin which will add 5,000 skilled tech jobs to the city in the short term, and 15,000 in the long term. Apple is already among the major employers in Austin.
Lorenzo Gomez, the former Rackspace executive and co founder of Geekdom, says with San Antonio and Austin moving physically closer together with the massive growth of San Marcos and New Braunfels, now is the time to jump start the same sort of commuter rail system that allowed Silicon Valley to include San Jose and San Francisco.
"The sooner we get the infrastructure in place, the sooner we can welcome more companies into the entire region," Gomez told News Radio 1200 WOAI's Michael Board.
He says Apple will, by its nature as a global tech leader, attract more tech companies to the region, and commuter rail would do more to draw San Antonio into that orbit.
"There will never be the stop of people going between Austin, and San Antonio, and the sooner we make that happen, the sooner we will all prosper together."
Efforts to develop commuter rail between the two cities have struggled for years. Issues from the lack of availability of land to build new rail lines to the recent decision of the Union Pacific not to participate in the Lone Star Rail project, to the massive cost of attempting to build infrastructure in an increasingly developed area have all worked against commuter rain development.
Gomez says this development also makes it essential that local colleges, community colleges, and training programs ramp up their education of tech workers. It is now clear that tech, from the cybersecurity hub already building in San Antonio to Apple's presence in Austin, will be the defining employment opportunity in this region for the coming generations.
"All of our universities need to be adding the technology component to their curriculum, if we want to stay in the game," Gomez said.