Alum to help San Antonio’s economy by boosting entrepreneurship

June 19, 2020

Innovation Catalyst

by Jennifer R. Lloyd (M.B.A. ’16)

Rene Dominguez stands in front of the Merchants Ice and Cold Stage Building on East Houston Street, which is part of the Texas Research and Technology Foundation’s redevelopment plans.

Flourishing through innovation underpins not only Rene Dominguez’s life, but also his career in economic development in the Alamo City.

San Antonio first lured Dominguez from his hometown of El Paso with its status as a major metropolitan area and a hotbed for Hispanic marketing. That interest led him to earn his bachelor’s from St. Mary’s University in English Communications Arts in 1992 and his Communication Studies master’s in 2000.

“In ’88, I completely fell in love with the school and jumped feet first — not only into the academic side of the school, but also the social side,” said Dominguez, who participated in student government, was a President’s Ambassador and a steadfast Rattler Basketball fan.

After working in restaurants and retail with a stint in Austin after graduation, Dominguez returned to St. Mary’s to work in the Alumni Relations Office helping to organize Fiesta Oyster Bake. Over the next decade, he worked his way up to become the Executive Director of Development.

Dominguez recently leapt from a position with the City of San Antonio into the roles of president and chief operating officer for the Texas Research and Technology Foundation and its nonprofit innovation arm, VelocityTX.

His latest career turn fits what President Emeritus Charles L. Cotrell, Ph.D., described as his “modest and adaptive” demeanor.

“His administrative and professional abilities embody and personify what I would consider to be the Marianist charism in terms of working in community and trying to achieve excellence,” Cotrell said.

Entrepreneur and economic development

Dominguez’s interactions with leading St. Mary’s alumni, such as Bill Greehey (B.B.A. ’60), led him to mentoring relationships for his next phase. He became president of the Community Development Loan Fund, which issued loans to small businesses. The City of San Antonio recruited him to run its Economic Development Department in 2009, though the “intense and a­wesome opportunity” came as the U.S. economy struggled from the Great Recession.

“San Antonio weathered the recession better than most U.S. cities,” Dominguez said. “The recession allowed us to take a look at how we did economic development and the roles education and workforce development played.”

With the city, Dominguez defined and established a more comprehensive economic development strategic plan that focused on local business expansion, workforce development and entrepreneurial development.

He worked on the expansion of everything from Fortune 500 companies, à la Microsoft and Google, to one-person biotech startups. His office also established economic partnership agreements with cities in China, Mexico, Israel and Germany. The efforts paid off — resulting in the creation of 20,000-plus jobs and more than $3 billion in
­local investment.

His new role with the Texas Research and Technology Foundation and VelocityTX inspired him because of the elements it drew together — redeveloping a five-plus acre city block in the underserved near-East Side into an innovation hub; economic development, including the creation of jobs and investment; and company formation and expansion. He will also work on entrepreneurial development, such as helping startups — especially those in the biosciences — commercialize their ideas.

“We are going to be a catalyst for growth and economic opportunity for the residents in the area,” he said.

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