Port San Antonio plans to target cybersecurity companies
Downtown has become the magnet for San Antonio’s technology movement, thanks to efforts like Geekdom and Tech Bloc.
A technology sector subset that San Antonio excels at, cybersecurity, needs a geographic focus, too, especially with Geekdom’s new cybersecurity incubator likely to spark new companies.
The city already is widely recognized as having the nation’s second-largest cybersecurity cluster in the nation after Washington, D.C.
It’s a job-growth engine without limits. Port San Antonio’s plan anticipates emerging opportunities and matching the opportunities with existing companies, educational support and, now, a physical setting.
The first step is building a 79,000-square-foot facility across the street from the port’s first office building, the three-story 1999 Roberson Building.
The industrial park’s board of directors that oversees the development of the former Kelly AFB is scheduled to select a broker this month for the new building. Once the broker has got it to where the building is 40 percent pre-leased, construction can begin, said Paco Felici, vice president for communications. “It will not be a fully speculative building,” Felici said.
The Roberson Building has been at or near capacity since its construction, and a recent expansion by one of the tenants has convinced the port’s leadership that the time is right to build more office space. But they’ve decided to target the new space to the cybersecurity industry.
“The next logical step, now that our available space is approaching capacity, is to focus on providing additional space that specifically meets the needs of the cyber sector and gives the port and those customers the flexibility to scale operations as they grow their business, be it in support for the Department of Defense or commercial clients,” said Roland Mower, port CEO and president.
Is Port San Antonio a good place for network security companies to operate?
It already is. More than 1,000 people at the port work in cybersecurity positions, the vast majority of them for the 24th Air Force, the Air Force’s cyber command.
In the last year or so, at least four cybersecurity companies have established a new presence at Port San Antonio. They are Alabama-based Radiance Technologies, Massachusetts-based Fidelis Cybersecurity, San Antonio-based IP Secure and Virginia-based IOMAXIS.
Fidelis provides network security to the private sector, such as insurance, medical and aerospace companies. The other new cybersecurity tenants mainly are contractors to the 24th Air Force and other area military clients.
Port San Antonio makes sense as the home of cybersecurity because the military spawned much of the city’s technology and network security base.
This goes back to the 1940s when the Air Force started its Security Service unit at Lackland AFB, leading to the nickname Security Hill, said Will Garrett, director of CyberSecurity San Antonio, an industry- and local government-supported group devoted to boosting the city’s network security industry. The unit is now known as the 25th Air Force.
The 1990s was another strong period of network security company growth. Garrett cited the WheelGroup, co-founded by a former Air Force technology researcher, Lee Sutterfield. The company pioneered intrusion detection and later sold for $124 million to Cisco Systems.
In short, as Air Force personnel left the service, they spread military know-how to the commercial sector’s network security needs. “Innovation was coming out of the Air Force. It’s still happening,” Garrett said.
The reasons don’t end there.
The 1,900-acre Port San Antonio is known mainly as an aerospace industrial park, led by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. and their aircraft repair, maintenance and overhaul operations
Jim Perschbach, the port’s business development executive vice president, said he believes aircraft-based networks are a field ripe for startup companies, pointing that new aircraft and their engines have computers that need network protections. Apps also are being developed to anticipate maintenance needs.
That makes the port an advantageous site for new companies going into that niche market.
Then there’s the efforts to produce a homegrown talent pool for the industry.
Port San Antonio already is marketing the building by listing the impressive educational support in the city for the cybersecurity industry. Alamo Colleges has appropriate certificate programs and operates the high-school-to-career Information Technology & Security Academy. The University of Texas at San Antonio has a highly ranked graduate-level cybersecurity program. The nonprofit Hallmark University also offers undergraduate degrees and certificate programs.
Another reason for developing the hub at Port San Antonio is that it has the space to grow. The building now in the works has the potential of becoming part of a 500,000-square-foot complex, Felici said.
Cybersecurity firms will need office arrangements far different from the open-space, cooperative settings found in downtown’s technology office settings for general technology companies. Instead, because of the very nature of their work, they will need compartmentalized office space with high-security access, Felici said.
But cybersecurity companies still want to be near each other, Perschbach said, at least close enough to solve shared problems. That’s a need that the port could fulfill.
In addition, most companies leasing the new building likely would be existing companies outside of San Antonio that want to operate near a large cybersecurity cluster, companies that likely will have government security clearances, Perschbach said.
The military can learn as much from the commercial network security companies as much as the military can inform the contractors they work with, Garrett said.
“The port is creating a vision for companies to work with the Air Force and the (nearby National Security Agency), to be close to the (military) missions, a place to collaborate among themselves,” Garrett added.
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