Q: What about retirees as a growth sector for San Antonio?

A: One foible of human nature is the concept of “survivorship bias.”  (I fall for it all the time.)  We make the logical error of concentrating on things that survived and overlooking other things because they aren’t as visible.  For example, for every Mark Zuckerberg, there are likely several hundred Harvard dropouts whose startups went nowhere.  But, we concentrate on the successes.

It’s human nature to emulate those successes.  As a City of San Antonio, we have an undercurrent of inferiority compared to our neighbor in Austin.  They’re cooler, hipper, have better nightlife and are where our recent high school graduates seem to gravitate towards.  Austin has succeeded using tech and UT Austin as drivers.  (Don’t worry, we’re not alone.  Austin worries about its inferiority compared to Silicon Valley.  They even have all-day meetings fretting about it.)

The SA 2020 initiative is great if not simply for the fact that we’re trying as a city to be ambitious.  In terms of growing our economy, the effort has targeted five sectors healthcare/bioscience, IT & info security, aerospace and new energy.  All fine and well and industries that we’ve seen other cities use to drive growth.  Are there any that we’re overlooking because, well, they’re just not talked about?

In looking at San Antonio, we have a lot going for us: warm climate, easy transportation options for flying and driving, safe, lots of cheap housing, few traffic problems, great golf weather, great healthcare and reasonably good culture.  All of those things are very attractive to a group of people who will be spending a lot of money over the next 30 years: old people.

Other cities at our latitude have succeeded around retirees.  San Diego, Phoenix, Florida: tons of retirees.  And, it’s getting really expensive to live in those places.  For the price of a condo in Florida within walking distance of the ocean, you can have a 5 bedroom house in San Antonio within ten minute drive of 80% of the city.

However, San Antonio is behind in being able to offer retirees the services they’ll need.  My in-laws spent time looking in San Antonio for retirement villages such as this one in Florida.  Except for a few such as Air Force Village, they’re hard to find.  In addition, San Antonio seems to have limited mindshare amongst aging baby boomers though that’s changing.

Perhaps we have to look no further than the next issue AARP magazine to find our next major economic driver?

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