Since 2000, the city of Cibolo, Texas, has grown by 843 percent, from 3,000 people to nearly 30,000. What’s behind the city’s exponential growth? Business in Focus sat down with Mark Luft, Economic Development Director of the City of Cibolo, to learn what’s attracting so many people to this burgeoning city.
Cibolo is a suburb of San Antonio located in Guadalupe County, a rural county adjacent to the San Antonio metropolitan area.
The community of Cibolo was first formed in 1876, when the Southern Pacific Railroad was built through the area. Cibolo flourished as a rural railroad community for many years. In 1965, residents voted to become an independent township. In the years that followed, Cibolo experienced consistent growth, reaching a population of more than 3,000 people in 2000.
Today, the population of Cibolo has climbed to nearly 30,000, as unique amenities and proximity to San Antonio make it attractive to residents and business owners alike. Cibolo is just a 20-minute drive from downtown San Antonio, and the San Antonio International Airport is also located nearby. The San Antonio area is home to multiple Fortune 500 companies, manufacturers, and federal government facilities. The industries represented include oil and gas, medicine and research, and cyber technology, to name just a few.
Numerous military facilities including Randolph Air Force Base, Lackland Air Force Base, and Fort Sam Houston are located in the area, as well as San Antonio Military Medical Center. Between 25 and 35 percent of Cibolo’s population is affiliated with the military. Cibolo is also located just an hour from Austin, the state capitol of Texas.
Despite its proximity to major cities, Cibolo boasts a small town atmosphere and a close-knit community. “The quality of life here is excellent,” says Mark Luft, Director of the Cibolo Economic Development Corporation. “Our cost of living is better than most other cities, and our crime rate is exceptionally low.” Indeed, Cibolo was ranked among the Top 25 Safe Cities in the country and in the state for small towns. In recent years, the city has been named one of CNN Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live and was ranked #10 on Movoto’s list of 10 Affordable Suburbs in America. Cibolo also has an outstanding public school system, making it an attractive location for families with children.
More than 30 colleges and universities are located in the area. With five locations in the area, the Alamo Community Colleges offer numerous training and certification programs to prepare students to enter the workforce. The University of Texas at San Antonio offers more than 60 bachelor’s degree programs across a wide array disciplines; Texas State University, Texas A&M University at San Antonio, and the University of Texas Health Science Center are all located nearby. The area is also home to prestigious private universities including Trinity University, Texas Lutheran University, and St. Mary’s University.
Cibolo’s rapidly growing population boasts a median income of $90,000, significantly higher than the San Antonio area’s median income of $52,000. This growing, affluent population offers opportunities for businesses of all sizes. “The people are here, and they have disposable income, so now is the time to expand on opportunities in retail, medical, and other industries,” Luft says. The growing population also provides an educated workforce ready to meet the needs of local employers. “There are job training programs here, and every year there are graduates from high schools, trade schools, and colleges and universities joining the labor force.”
Cibolo’s workforce is unique in that it includes military retirees and veterans from every branch of service. “Many military members want to retire here or are discharged here, including many young service members. They’re committed to employment here; they’re disciplined, and they’re leaders,” says Luft. These military retirees offer a broad range of skills to meet the needs of local employers. “Almost any profession you see in civilian life, we have an equivalent here for the military. There are civil engineers, electrical engineers, construction experts, scientific researchers, and medical personnel ranging from technicians to practitioners to nurses and support staff.”
Situated between Interstate 10 and Interstate 35, Cibolo’s location is optimal for businesses that rely on regional transportation. “You can go from California to Florida on I-10, and I-35 goes from Mexico, through Laredo [Texas], up to the Twin Cities, and all the way to Canada. So we’re on the spoke of the two major highways in the country. For transportation, we’re ideally located.”
The Cibolo Economic Development Corporation (EDC) works to enable businesses take advantage of the many opportunities available in the area.
“The city government staff are very well educated and experienced. For government employees, we’re very customer-oriented and very service-oriented. We understand the private sector’s needs, we think like private sector people,” Luft says. “We treat every business individually. Whatever their needs are, we do whatever we can to make it possible for them to locate here.”
The Economic Development Corporation helps businesses leverage the many incentives available. “We have an abundance of land and a willingness to provide economic incentives, tax abatements and other kinds of programs,” Luft says. Among the incentives available through the City of Cibolo are property tax phase-in and sales tax rebates. Tax abatement programs are also available through the county and state governments. “The state of Texas is very aggressive in the programs it offers,” Luft says. These programs include financing options, grants, and site selection assistance.
The Cibolo Economic Development Corporation is committed to partnering with businesses to meet their unique needs and create jobs in the city. Recently, the EDC worked with local entrepreneurs to revitalize the city’s historic Old Town district, performing a feasibility study to guide the development process and installing sidewalks and street lights to make the area more attractive to the public.
Currently, the EDC is collaborating with a local power company to develop a new industrial park. Designed to accommodate new and growing businesses, the industrial park is surrounded by four square miles of agricultural land, allowing for expansion in the future. The park is situated directly on Interstate 10 between San Antonio and Houston, making it an ideal location for manufacturing and distribution operations.
In the years to come, Cibolo’s population will continue to grow as individuals, families and businesses choose to locate here. “The growth is just phenomenal. Right now we’re building a new house per day, and we’re working on bringing in multi-family developments as well,” Luft says.
This growth means opportunity for developers and businesses of all types. The EDC is currently working on a mixed-use development adjacent to the YMCA sports complex, which will offer housing, retail, and office space. Another mixed-use project to be located in the center of town is currently in the design phase, and the EDC is also working on developing a 136-unit housing facility for senior citizens.
“We’re trying to take care of the Millennials moving in – young families that have children, providing sports and activities, and getting them ready to go to college; and the baby boomers, by creating options for downsizing homes and meeting their medical needs. We want to be a community for every stage of life,” says Luft.