Chin Up, Tech Aliens

I started this post last week. The headline was going to be “Calm Down, Tech Aliens.” My big idea was to do some counter-programming to all the excitement lately about the tech industry in San Antonio.

But then news that Rackspace Hosting is in buy-out talks with the private-equity firm Apollo Global Management screwed up the timing. If consummated, the sale of the homegrown Cloud company — the only nationally recognized technology firm based here — will alter San Antonio’s nascent high-tech community in some way, big or small. But nobody knows how yet.

Tech booster unable to contain himself during an Uber ride.

I figured it would be prudent to wait for the story to develop. But after a few days with no new news, prudence is starting to look a little moldy. Blogs need to be fed. People need new stuff to read.

Anyway, the idea for the post started with tweets from Tech Bloc, which is basically the local Chamber of Commerce for software and Internet firms, but more assertive and less politically accommodating than the other local chambers. The tweets show up on my iPhone as text messages every day, several times a day, sometimes within seconds of each other. They’re word bursts about gains made and victories won in our technology sector. Often they’re retweets of stories from the Rivard Report, San Antonio Business Journal, and Express-News.

We’ve had so many “game-changers” I’ve lost track of the game we’re playing.

I was going to start the post by pontificating that this onslaught of positivity was a good and natural thing.

Late last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that computer and information-technology jobs would be the fastest growing of all occupations, climbing 12 percent between 2014 and 2024. The income for these positions is enviable. Median pay in 2014 was $79,390 per year, compared to a median of $35,540 for all occupations.

Economic-development types would be crazy not to grab for a piece of that pie. Tech companies in SA, which are hurting for talent, would be equally crazy not to encourage the econ-dev types and their local government employers to make our city more attractive to tech workers and entrepreneurs.

Successes and good publicity breed more successes and even better publicity.

But at a certain point you have to check in with reality and its ugly friend, perspective.

This would have been the blog post’s zinger: I would’ve slyly pointed out that we need whatever good news we can get because tech in San Antonio is a sick puppy. Sick as in ill, not awesome.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks up the labor market into 10 broad categories. Its “information” category takes in most tech jobs. In June, tech was one of only two jobs categories that lost ground in the San Antonio area, shedding 3.2 percent of its jobs over the last year. The other was mining, which includes oil and gas exploration. Thanks to the Eagle Ford Shale bust, it lost 18 percent of its jobs year-over-year.

All told, San Antonio ended June with 21,500 jobs tied to Internet and software development, or 2.1 percent of the area’s entire workforce.

Which essentially means we have nowhere to go but up.

That’s what I would have said anyway, pre-Rackspace news. We’ll have to see if even that’s too optimistic.

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