City of San Antonio Economic Development

The Culture of Business

LOOP, a group of young professionals transforming SA!

I knew from personal experience that being a young professional in San Antonio was not without its difficulties.  I grew up in San Antonio, but moved away for college and work.  When I returned, I found it difficult to insert myself back into San Antonio’s slow moving rhythm.  I met Kelly in a kickball league that played in Hemisfair Park. When she told me about her work with LOOP, I jumped at the chance for an interview.

A graduate of Texas A&M University, Kelly Beevers has worked as a commercial real estate developer with Hixon Properties Incorported in San Antonio for over three years.  In her free time, Kelly serves on the Board of LOOP as Chair-Elect, as an AwesomeSA Trustee, as the Urban Land Institute Young Leader Chair, and as a Young Life Leader in Alamo Heights.  Kelly is especially found of NCAA football and traveling the world.

Ryan Kuhl is the Chief Operating Officer for the nonprofit corporation SA2020. The mission of SA2020 is to catalyze the entire community into passionate, focused, and sustained action that will transform San Antonio into a world-class city by the year 2020. He is on the board of LOOP and has been involved with them for the past year.

I sat down with Ryan and Kelly at Mad Hatters in South Town over tea and sandwiches.

Me:  What is LOOP?

Kelly:  LOOP stands for Leadership Organization of Professionals.  We are a community of young professional advocates equipped with the knowledge and resources required to transform San Antonio into a premier location for talented and innovative young professionals.

Ryan: We’re a group that saw a chance to make a lasting difference and we are working together to make that a reality.

Kelly: San Antonio isn’t reaching its potential. People don’t always think of San Antonio when they’re looking for a job, and LOOP aims to change that.

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Me:  Why San Antonio?

Kelly:  We all see San Antonio as a city ripe for opportunity. It’s a city with a great foundation. It has history, and a vibrant culture. Plus its also a very family friendly place.

Ryan: San Antonio is extremely welcoming, and has always been known for collaborative efforts.  The bottom line for many of the catalysts investing in the city is quality of life, because that makes it easier to attract talent. San Antonio is a city on the rise.  There are many companies here growing quickly that provide young professionals with an opportunity to get in and really make an impact where they might not be able to in other cities.  San Antonio is a city where an individual can really take ownership of change.

Me: What are the challenges you see in San Antonio?

Kelly: There are real challenges in San Antonio, but the majority of the problems are perception issues; like that there aren’t any young professionals.   There is a perception that San Antonio is a brain drain.  But that perception is a misperception. Jim Russel, an economic geographer which is someone who studies economics and the movement of people found that San Antonio is gaining 25+ year olds with college degrees and fast. We are actually one of the fastest growing talent markets in America, ranking at number 6 in a study of 51 metro-areas.

Kelly: There’s not really a force to dispel the misperceptions.  We are great at selling the city to visitors, but not to locals. That’s where LOOP comes in.  We want to sell the city to locals, aggregate information to make it easier for them to find ways of getting involved and engaged.

Kelly: Loop is trying to advocate for our demographic.  The cities that are going to be successful in the future are the ones that cater to our generation.

Ryan: The population movement is so fluid. Cities and businesses need to be extremely competitive in order to bring in the young professionals or the talent that they need. We want to assist them so that when a young professional gets here, they want to stay here. We want to get those individuals connected to a larger network of young professionals so they don’t feel like they’re alone in a big city.

Me: What do you think about the talent in San Antonio?

Ryan:  There are so many young, innovative talented professionals, but they are isolated in clusters.

Kelly:  We keep saying San Antonio is a city on the rise, because it hasn’t reached its potential yet. If you look at educational attainment and compare San Antonio nationally San Antonio looks low in its educated talent. Comparatively speaking we have less college graduates, but at the rate we are increasing, we may surpass some of these cities like Chicago and Austin that people automatically think of as having the brains.  We are the sixth highest talent importing city in the nation. San Antonio is becoming extremely attractive for companies and employees to move to.

Ryan: San Antonio is starting to look at itself as a producer of talent. And we as a city are trending in the right direction. In fact, there is a significant number of colleges in San Antonio with over 94,000 students currently enrolled.

Me: How is Loop working to better San Antonio?

Kelly: So one of our programs is the Ambassador Program. We have members that work for companies like USAA, Rackspace, and Spurs Sport and Entertainment. They started talking to us about their challenges with recruiting and retaining and selling the message that San Antonio has a lot to offer.  Once talent got here, they needed help getting them plugged in with social programs.

Kelly: In March we had a program, where talent recruiters of major San Antonio companies spoke to us about their holes. We asked them questions like “What are you goals?  What are you doing currently?  What are your needs?”

Ryan: EDD (Economic Development Department) and EDF (Economic Development Foundation)  are attracting companies to move to San Antonio, but the question that the talent is asking is, “What is there to do in San Antonio for someone my age?”

Kelly: So the companies wanted to know how to answer that question. They have a hard time understanding what young professionals are doing because they’re not plugged in.  So our ambassador program has a programming component, finding and creating events, and a marketing component, letting those new to San Antonio and also those who moved away and have come back know what’s going on in the city.

Me: Does LOOP work to keep young professionals in San Antonio?  How specifically?

Ryan: So we are trying to hold events every couple of months. This year, we have already held four.

1)    Boards Commissions and Committees.  Giving our members an opportunity to become more engaged leaders by joining a board or committee and providing the resources for them to do so.

2)    Economic Competitiveness.  With the ambassadors program we were talking about earlier.

3)    Via Transportation. In the month of May all of our members were encouraged to take Via buses to different happy hour locations around the city.  At the end of the month, the CEO and other board members of Via sat down and had a dialogue about what worked and what didn’t work.  They had never engaged our demographic before and so much of what was said, they hadn’t heard before.

4)    Education We had a conversation with Steve Lechelop, SAISD Board Member and LOOP member, Southwest School of Art, Advise Texas, and Generation Texas about the success stories and collaborative efforts currently occurring in education in San Antonio.

Kelly: We intend to have six events a year.  The last two will be:

5)    Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses. This will initially focus on the small business incubators, whether that is Geekdom, or InCube for bioscience or San Antonio clean energy incubator, or Free flow research helping foreign-born startup founders find visas and help to improve San Antonio through their businesses.

6)    Political involvement.  We want to help with improving the voter turnout rate, educating, advocating, leading and transforming.  We also want members to get to know their city councilmen so that they understand the need for engagement and are more comfortable initiating change in their neighborhoods.

Kelly: If there were three words that really represented what LOOP is, it would be Engage, Lead and Transform.

Ryan: We also do social events as well, but our social events have a take away or a measurable outcome.

Kelly: LOOP attends SAMA’s second Friday happy hour where the San Antonio Museum of Art stays open late, has cocktails and displays a specific exhibit. Our role is not purely social. Other organizations already cover that. Our social events are cultural or educational. For example, we just did an event in June highlighting apartments in the urban core. And this was actually a request by some of the major company’s who said, “Hey, our employees want to live in the urban core but we don’t know where.”

Me: Why would businesses move to San Antonio? What makes this city business friendly?

Ryan: Something that the Chairman of Rackspace, Graham Weston, has said, is that we are a city on the rise.  It is undeniable that there is opportunity, politically, and culturally.  We are a city where businesses and individuals can absolutely make an impact. They’re not moving into something that is dying or past its prime, but a city with opportunity.  They get to be part of the transitioning of San Antonio into something even better.

Me: Does Loop’s membership include entrepreneurs and small business owners?  How does Loop support them?

Kelly: One way will be through the Entrepreneur and Small Business Program that we spoke about earlier.  That directly correlates to supporting them. But beyond that, LOOP is affordable to all its members.  Right now our dues are $100/ year. At one LOOP there is an amazing amount of representation from all different sectors from all over the city including attorneys, city officials, CEO’s and business owners. It really an amazing amalgamation of professionals. And what’s even more amazing are these people, if you bounce an idea off one of them and they like it, they’re the type of person to go and talk to their boss or the CEO and make something happen.

If you’d like to learn more about LOOP and how they’re bettering the city, click here.

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2 comments on “LOOP, a group of young professionals transforming SA!

  1. clayelkins
    August 16, 2013

    Good article. A factor that I believe detracts from SA’s attractiveness for young professionals is the lack of facilities (shopping, entertainment, multimodal transportation) in the urban core. If you look at cities like Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, Austin, etc, they all have vibrant downtowns. There is never an idle moment in those downtowns. Young people tend to flock towards the downtown area. San Antonio’s downtown lacks a lot of the elements that would make it attractive for young professionals to move to come back to SA. While there has been a lot of progress in the last 3 years with more and more residential units (mixed-use development) popping up, a lot of the units are beyond the realm of affordability for singles on an entry-level salary. Not having a true, central, downtown grocery store also hurts some as well. I think the First Friday scene is great. The Southtown area really comes to life. Why can’t it be that way every day and not just 1 day out of the month? The Southtown area could really benefit from some increased population density. I’d love to see what happens if the former Univision site gets developed with the mid-rise apartments and the plans for the Lone Star brewery and Blue Star II get put in. I think it will really start getting the ball rolling on bringing more entertainment options and other amenities to the urban core.

    • jrc1285
      May 16, 2014

      Thanks for the comment clayelkins. Many San Antonians agree and bringing more life to downtown is a key component of the SA2020 initiative. They’re helped by the City’s Center City Development Office, which works on redevelopment of the urban core and supporting projects like those at the Univision site. There are a variety of ways to help make downtown SA more vibrant and encourage you to be involved.

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