JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
The commander of the 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio hosted 16 members of local Chambers of Commerce from cities located near JBSA installations during its first chamber summit at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston on June 4.
Chamber members were told about of the future growth of JBSA, to include more than 800 new people this year and how this will affect JBSA and the surrounding communities. This growth will mean new challenges, but also new opportunities, ranging from infrastructure to community initiatives.
“We need to work together to ensure our growth inside of our fence line and the ongoing growth in the local communities remains compatible,” said Brig. Gen. Laura L. Lenderman, 502nd ABW and JBSA commander. “Our partnerships with the Chambers of Commerce play an invaluable role in allowing our military and civilian communities to continue to thrive together.”
To achieve this, Lenderman encouraged the chamber members to become part of JBSA’s Public-Public, Public-Private, or P4, Community Partnership Initiative Program.
Other effects of this increased growth include budget constraints, which led Lenderman to discuss how JBSA can partner with the community to benefit both the civilian and government sector.
One opportunity is the Intergovernmental Support Agreement, or IGSA. IGSA’s allow military bases to purchase commodities and services from local municipalities, counties, and states. One of the first projects to be completed utilizing this program was the paving of a street at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. The Air Force’s first IGSA paving project provided a 25 percent cost reduction and took 45 days instead of the usual 120 days.
“Adding military value is exactly what we aim to do,” said retired Marine Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, director of the Office of Military Affairs for the City of San Antonio. “We are putting our money where our mouth is by providing infrastructure support to our military. We also need community support, and that’s where the chambers come in.”
“The West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce is supporting the military and their family members by providing self-development education and workforce opportunities though our membership,” said Kristi Villanueva, West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.
“Spouse employment has become one of the top priorities for the Department of Defense,” said Serafina De Los Santos, 502d Force Support Group deputy commander. “We are working very closely with the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to ensure spouses have the certifications the state requires.
“The Career Skills Program is another great program across the Department of Defense that partners with local businesses to provide apprenticeships to our spouses and our transitioning service members,” De Los Santos added.
The program also provides internships, employment skills training and job shadowing. Service members that are within 180 days from transitioning out of the military are eligible to participate in the program.
“This is a great program that allows our transitioning service members and employers to go for a ‘test drive,’” De Los Santos said.
“We have put on a job fair for the past four years for the transitioning military members and their spouses,” said Maggie Titterington, Schertz-Cibolo-Selma Area Chamber of Commerce president. “These job fairs are organized by our Chairman of Military Affairs, Ivory Freeman. As a veteran himself, Mr. Freeman went through the transition from active duty military to civilian life, and he knows firsthand just how difficult this can be.”
Another way that JBSA is partnering with the surrounding Chambers of Commerce is a direct outreach to small businesses to aid them in navigating the military’s contracting process.
“We have two people within the 502d Contracting Squadron who are small business specialists,” said Col. Paul Porter, 502d Contracting Squadron commander. “Any business that wants work with the government can receive help with the process.”
“The majority of our small business owners are women from our chamber,” said John Agather, from the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. “One of the things we are going do this year is concentrate on the basics of how to become a military contractor.”
Overall, the summit further solidified the relationaship between San Antonio and the surrounding cities with JBSA.
“The Department of Defense is the largest employer in the region,” Ayala noted. “We want economic impact. We want to grow.”
“From my years in the military, I can’t recall a single installation that touches as many entities as JBSA, whether it’s civic, business, or the indirect economic impact that the military has on this community,” Ayala added. “That’s where the local chambers come in. We need that regional support to ensure we advocate for the military. We need to ensure we sustain their missions.”