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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

San Antonio Clean Tech Forum Wrap-up!

Photo courtesy of UT Health Science Center San Antonio

Today my colleague Nate and I had the opportunity to attend the San Antonio Clean Tech Forum (SACTF) at the UTSA downtown campus. If you don't already know, SACTF is a think tank founded by former Tesoro CEO Michael Burke (pictured above) to change perceptions of energy in the River City. As a major city San Antonio is well behind others in "going green" and needs more innovation, which SACTF aims to provide.

Today's presenters covered a wide variety of topics. Mark Still, an Assistant VP from USAA (Employee Support Services) discussed USAA's sustainability measures, specifically NuRide. As most customers and anyone living in San Antonio knows, USAA sets the standards for employee and customer satisfaction with unheard of approval ratings internally and externally. It was refreshing that they've targeted green initiatives as a way to continue their campaign of peerless employee support. Here at BBA, we're huge proponents of the fact green doesn't haven't to inconvenient or expensive and USAA is proving that for huge corporations. Still focused mainly on NuRide and the benefits employees receive by partaking in the ridesharing network, which is an incredibly simple and effective way to carpool with your neighbors.

Our next speaker was Laurence Doxsey, the Director of Environmental Policy for the City of San Antonio. I'm thrilled they've created a position within the government to advocate on behalf of sustainability at the city and community levels. The position was created in July 2008 to pursue Mayor Hardberger's Mission Verde, which is exactly what Doxsey spoke about. Not only is Verde something sorely needed in San Antonio, it appears the next Mayor will continue the program. With the new administration's emphasis on technological innovation and environmentally friendly policies, Doxsey's position will be critical.

Bob Shemwell from Overland Partners wrapped up the forum. While his presentation entitled "Drivers of Change" was fascinating, the compact time frame didn't allow him to fully expound on all of his points. But he did speak in depth about one overarching principle that stuck with me, simply because we've discussed it before at BBA: decentralization. With the rise of the internet, everything from companies to energy is becoming decentralized and focused on local action and actors. We've seen giant monoliths once described as "too big to fail" being held up by the government because of tremendous bloating on multiple levels. The idea is not political, it's simply the way society's currently moving. It would be beneficial for every business to consider the ramification of decentralization and prepare yourself and your business as such. I know we certainly have because this movement means opportunity!

The SACTF was an informative and inspiring way to spend the morning. I highly recommend anyone interested in the environment or technology attend. The next meeting on April 15th is a must-see: "A Mayoral Debate on Sustainability, Alternative Energy, Nuclear and Water Issues" featuring Julian Castro, Diane Cibrian Trish DeBerry-Mejia and Sheila McNeil. If you'd like more information, email me at the address listed below. Hope to see you there.

Jon Pyle is the Director of Business Development and Senior Business Consultant for Barber & Barber Associates. Email him at to discuss all things green and decentralization.

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