Longtime leader of local economic generator retiring in late June

EDF's Mario Hernandez helped over 400 companies move or expand in SA

SAN ANTONIO – Mario Hernandez, the longtime president of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, said he’s retiring at the end of June, having helped 420 companies move or expand their operations, creating payrolls worth billions.

Yet the biggest prize of his 32-year career?

“It has to be Toyota,” Hernandez said.

He said 7,000 are now employed there, far more than the initial 2,000 people who were hired after San Antonio landed the auto giant in 2003.

The silver shovel Hernandez used during the groundbreaking still sits near his desk. Yet when he began with EDF trying to recruit companies in 1984, Hernandez said “You’d have to say San Antonio, Texas, and explain where you were.”

But Hernandez said times have certainly changed.

“Now corporate America and really the world, they think of San Antonio,” he said.

Hernandez said no longer is San Antonio’s economy limited to tourism and military bases.

He said EDF has “led the charge” in diversifying and growing other employment opportunities. Hernandez said if a company is looking to the Southwest, “They’ll put San Antonio on the list, no matter what type of industry it is.”
He said although times and corporate needs have changed, EDF’s message has been consistent, “San Antonio is aggressive. San Antonio is hungry for economic development and jobs.”

Hernandez said the only slowdown was during the Great Recession, but nothing like the rest of the country.
“We didn’t grow our jobs in those years,” he said.

Hernandez said he urges whoever takes the helm after he leaves to never forget, “Economic development is not growth for the sake of growth. It’s really a way to improve quality of life.”