Amazon’s resolution to open three new amenities in San Antonio — together with a 1 million-square-foot achievement heart on the East Aspect — and rent greater than 1,500 employees was a pleasant coda to this accursed 12 months.

Between March and April, necessary coronavirus shutdowns incinerated practically 110,000 jobs within the San Antonio metro space, in keeping with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The longer view is simply barely much less grim: We misplaced a web 34,100 jobs from January by November.

The e-commerce large’s announcement on Tuesday was a welcome break from the gloom.

Right here’s what Mayor Ron Nirenberg needed to say: “San Antonio’s various industries, expert workforce and sustainable infrastructure make us resilient, and we’re able to help important development from tech-focused firms like Amazon.”

You’ll be able to write off the primary half of that sentence as rhetorical filler. For years now, technocrats have chattered incessantly — and fuzzily — about “resiliency.” It roughly implies that a metropolis can stand up to large shocks, together with pandemics. San Antonio was poor earlier than the COVID-19 outbreak, and it’s a lot poorer now; if that counts as resilient, the idea is as meaningless as we’ve suspected all alongside.

However the second half of Nirenberg’s quote, about being “able to help important development,” has substance.

It precisely describes San Antonio’s place in an economic system that lavishly, excessively rewards tech — we’re a worker-bee metropolis.

We don’t do a lot of the high-paying work, corresponding to R&D and technique growth. That occurs in cities like Seattle or Austin, which we discovered two weeks in the past would be the new dwelling base of enterprise software program maker Oracle Corp. Elon Musk, founding father of Tesla and SpaceX, is shifting there, too.

A variety of San Antonio labor is dedicated to back-office duties — taking prospects’ questions and complaints in name facilities, processing payments, and warehousing and delivering the products.

Amazon has gotten richer due to the pandemic. Persons are residing rather more of their lives on-line than they had been a 12 months in the past, and that features shopping for stuff.

For instance, I wanted pen cartridges final week. As an alternative of driving a mile or so to the closest Workplace Depot, I hit up Amazon. An Amazon employee or two, perhaps with the assistance of a robotic, packaged and shipped my cartridges, and a driver delivered them to my home the following day.

These are the sort of jobs the corporate might be including in San Antonio.

The wages might be OK. Amazon pays its employees a minimal of $15 an hour.

I’ve the maths abilities of a journalist. So I requested Google, which additionally has thrived through the pandemic, what someone incomes $15 an hour brings in over the course of a 12 months. Google despatched me to Its reply was: about $30,000, or greater than $31,000 if the employee acquired two weeks of paid trip.

A pair reference factors, courtesy of the Census Bureau: The median revenue for male employees in San Antonio is $30,848 per 12 months. Ladies make a lot much less — a median of $22,757 per 12 months — as a result of they’re ladies they usually proceed to undergo discrimination within the office.

That $15 an hour, or $30,000 per 12 months, is Amazon’s baseline pay. A few of its new staff — we don’t know what number of — will earn extra.

These might be strong jobs, and a few of them will go to San Antonians who had been thrown out of labor this 12 months.

The day earlier than the Amazon information broke, I direct-messaged Richard Florida, an economics professor and head of the College of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute, on Twitter. He’s the writer of the 2002 ebook “The Rise of the Artistic Class,” one of many sacred texts for urbanists.

All through the aughts, in speeches, panel discussions, TED Talks and opinion items, Florida promoted the concept that cities ought to work exhausting to draw younger artists and professionals in tech, science, enterprise and administration — “data employees.” The outcome was infinite discuss in minor-league cities across the nation about hike-and-bike trails, espresso outlets, extra and higher arts and leisure choices, downtown flats and condos, and so forth.

The case Florida made was a part of the mental basis of San Antonio’s “Decade of Downtown,” then-Mayor Julian Castro’s expensive push to lure extra residents to the interior metropolis.

The issue — which has develop into crystal-clear within the intervening years — is that the Good Ones, specifically the tech business and its generals (corresponding to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos), have worsened revenue inequality within the U.S. They’re vastly growing the gulf between the haves and have-nots.

Florida handled this fallout in his 2017 ebook “The New City Disaster,” an excellent primer on the repair we’re in.

With the Oracle and Musk information nonetheless within the air, I needed to listen to what Florida needed to say in regards to the post-COVID-19 prospects of a metropolis like San Antonio, which lacks the worldly attract of a spot like Austin.

He hasn’t backed off his authentic premise.

“Most of the issues San Antonio has accomplished to make it extra engaging — from the River Stroll to downtown — are the sorts of issues that may pay dividends to draw expertise sooner or later,” Florida mentioned by electronic mail. “Distant employees can’t work in isolation. Human beings are social creatures. We require interplay. The group and the town will develop into extra, not much less, essential post-pandemic.”

So far as San Antonio’s relationship to Austin, he famous that the 2 “have lengthy been linked.”

“There are lots of individuals who love Austin,” Florida mentioned. “However Austin has a special politics and can be changing into extremely costly. It’s affected by its personal new city disaster already, so what I might anticipate is spillover to learn San Antonio within the brief run. Cooperation and coordination and collaboration between the 2 and in addition Dallas and Houston are important.”

By “spillover,” he meant firms, entrepreneurs and employees shifting to San Antonio.

Possibly he’s proper. However Austin’s been costly for a very long time now, and we now have but to see a tide of refugees from our sister metropolis.

In an economic system stacked towards cities corresponding to San Antonio, the larger chances are that we’ll stay a huge hive of employee bees for the foreseeable future.

Simply bear in mind: There’s no disgrace in that. The disgrace is {that a} handful of firms and metro areas get such an outsize share of the financial rewards.


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