Study Highlights San Antonio Cyber Security Success

Sep 21, 2017

A study published today by the New America Foundation uses San Antonio as a one of three models for success to be emulated. 

San Antonio's information security industry is built on federal contracts argues the report with an estimated $300 million in local military contract opportunities, but it was the local economic development push by the Chamber of Commerce and industry leaders that attracted New America and lead author Natasha Cohen to take a harder look at the city.

"It's really a locally driven economy that has interaction with these federal cyber security institutions," Cohen says.

The study was intended to show how different markets dealt with growing cyber. It argues the industry with a zero percent unemployment rate, and near $90 billion a year worth, is attractive to cities globally. 

Among San Antonio's bright spots was its robust educational focus. Several universities in San Antonio offer cyber security programs including the University of Texas San Antonio and St. Mary's University.

Cohen was also impressed with the middle and high school programs like Cyber Patriot, a national youth cyber defense competition. These programs grow the San Antonio talent pool in a way that cities with larger industry aren't.

"I think places like New York, Boston, California, there is enough push and talent [there] that they haven't felt the need yet, but I would argue that they should."

The Civil Air Patrol hosts a summer camp for high school students every year in San Antonio.

Schools across San Antonio compete in Cyber Patriot, which was founded at UTSA and grown nationwide. At the core of the competition is leveraging an activity that students think is fun into the knowledge leading to real, high-paying jobs, says Chris Cook a former CyberTexas Foundation director.

"We routinely have 18 year-olds graduating from some of our very good high school programs: Holmes High School, Roosevelt High School, Southwest High School, with the courses under their belts offered at their schools and the professional certifications routinely making $45,000, and often $55,000 right out of high school."

There are headwinds for  the city though says Cohen.

"The centers of funding are on the coasts -- whether that's federal or private -- so building up enough momentum and opportunity is hard," she says.

Cohen also points out San Antonio's airport as a limiting factor. San Antonio has often struggled to get direct flights to major cities.  Finally she says the city needs more product-based cyber security companies. San Antonio's industry boasts a number of service-based companies, but common consensus is product based ones get more funding.

Beersheba, Israel and Malvern, U.K. were also included in the study.

**This story broadcast on 9.20.17