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Greater San Marcos is well positioned to capture opportunities in three growing sub-categories of Business Services and Support employment – namely, Customer Care Operations, Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, and Data Centers. What ties these three categories together is the need for business and information technology (IT) centered skill sets, the storage, support, input, and analysis of business-related data, and potential development/attraction of business units in these niches from existing San Marcos area firms.
The two counties comprising Greater San Marcos also feature lower labor, land, and rental costs than Austin and San Antonio proper.
Examples of Business Services and Support firms in the region are:
- Best Buy, a leading provider of technology products, services and solutions, has its first and only Texas e-commerce sales operation center in the City of San Marcos;
- Bowman Consulting, a national engineering, surveying, landscape architecture, and environmental consulting firm with one of its three Texas offices in the City of San Marcos;
- Austin-based firms with local presence, such as Doucet and Associates, a civil engineering design and consulting and surveying firm with local projects including the Red Oak Village retail development;
- tekRESCUE, Inc., an IT consulting firm that repairs computers, smartphones, and enterprise level servers owned by small and mid-sized businesses, develops and maintains websites, and provides search engine optimization services; and
- The Whitenton Group, an environmental consulting firm that markets research and public relations services.
Employment growth has been significant over the last 10 years. While these subsectors experienced national job growth of 19 percent, employment in the two-county Greater San Marcos region doubled. This is a positive sign that the region has the ingredients for a stronger presence of these firms.
A quarter of the employment in 2013, or 855 jobs, in this target can be attributed to entrepreneurs. This is a 35 percent increase in the number of self-employed individuals working in the included business sectors between 2003 and 2013. Region-wide, only 9 percent of jobs are attributed to the self-employed, an indication that this target is a prime opportunity to focus on small business support and connecting small businesses with large employers across business sectors to spur innovation in business support technologies and processes.
Higher education institutions in most communities typically offer a competitive supply of business- and IT-focused degree and training programs. Greater San Marcos is no exception; the following comprise the principal two- and four-year degree options in the region.
Austin Community College’s Hays County Campus offers programs in: Accounting, Computer Information Technology, Computer Science, Economics, English for Speakers of Other Languages, Management, Mathematics, Office Administration, Spanish, Speech, and Writing.
Relevant Texas State undergraduate major offerings include accounting, advertising and mass communication, art, communication design, computer information systems, electronic media and mass communication, finance, graphic design, health information management, interior design, management, marketing, marketing with sales concentration, marketing with services concentration, political science, and public relations and mass communication. Graduate programs include an MBA, a Master of Science in Accounting and Information Technology, and master’s degrees in computer science, legal studies, software engineering, technical communication, and technology management. The institution also has paralegal certificate and mediation certificate programs.
In addition to local assets, Greater San Marcos benefits from its proximity to the many colleges and universities in Austin and San Antonio. There are 18 public and private, non-profit colleges and universities that grant four-year and/or graduate degrees and three public two-year colleges within a 50-mile radius of the City of San Marcos, where students can receive training in an array of relevant fields supporting customer care. There are also two law schools: the School of Law at UT-Austin and St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio in the 10-county super-region.
PLACE-BASED ASSETS AND OPPORTUNITIES
There is ample developable land in the region appropriately zoned for commercial and office uses. This includes sites for data centers. There is more flexibility relative to space for small businesses as they can locate in Class-B and –C properties if necessary and can also launch operations from home, a storefront, or some other type of more readily available space. Land and rental costs are also lower in Hays and Caldwell Counties than in the Austin and San Antonio core counties.
Broadband access is vital to the viability of the Business Services and Support target. The Greater San Marcos region has access to 25 broadband providers, including mobile providers; according to Broadband Now, the average connection speed in the region is 7 percent faster than the state’s average speed. One provider, City of San Marcos-based Grande Communications, announced in February 2014 that it plans to roll out a new Internet service that offers speeds of one gigabit per second, up to 20 times faster than existing top-tier service.
When compared to other states, commercial and industrial electricity costs in Texas are competitive. As of July 2014, the commercial electricity costs in Texas were $8.20 per kilowatt-hour, tied for 3rd nationally and below the average for the United States ($11.16). Though Texas’ rates are competitive, among Central Texas cities, San Marcos’ commercial and industrial electricity rates were the highest on average in the most recent available data.
Utility Rates by Provider, 2012
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Firms also prefer to locate their data centers in areas that are at a relatively low risk from natural disasters. These centers must be constantly online, so any natural phenomenon that could physically threaten a building or cause a long-term disruption (such as a flood, tornado, or earthquake) to the power grid is a significant threat. According to CNN and RealtyTrac, Hays and Caldwell counties each have risk scores of 25, meaning they are low risks for natural disasters; this is an advantage for the region.
Natural Disaster Risk by County
Source: RealtyTrac, CNN Money
In terms of Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, another critical location factor is proximity to a major airport due to the high rate of business travel required. In this regard, Greater San Marcos benefits from its proximity to two international airports. Though there are overlaps, Austin-Bergstrom International, just over 30 miles away from the region’s core city center, has over 40 nonstop destinations, while San Antonio International, approximately 45 miles away, features over 30 nonstop destinations. Additionally, this position between two airports gives travelers flexibility in terms of airfares and carriers.