It’s no secret that the Alamo city is in the starting phases of one of the largest population and industry booms of its 299-year history. People and businesses are looking to relocate here, while major companies like Hulu are looking to grow even larger in the Bexar area.
And yet, while all signs seem to point toward a bright future for San Antonio, it might not be available to everyone.
“I’m still pretty new to San Antonio, and I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place quite this segregated,” writes Patton Dodd, Editor-in-Chief of Folo Media, “the seams between wealthy and poor show here, if you just look out for them a little bit”.
Comprised of three veterans of the news and media industries (Patton Dodd, Alice Rhee, and Benjamin Olivo), Folo examines the growing disparity and inequality between San Antonio’s wealthiest and poorest communities. As referenced on their website, two recent studies (linked here and here) argue that San Antonio is the most unequal city in the entire nation.
“Before we started Folo, we asked a lot of locals what they thought about local inequality, and they responded one of two ways: ‘That’s not something people talk about very much’ or ‘I had no idea’” Dodd said.
It was the surprising responses that led the team to dial in to this inequality and decide to focus solely on exposing and discussing this societal elephant in the room. With the support of the Laity Renewal Foundation and the H. E. Butt Family Foundation, Dodd, Rhee, and Olivo have set out to bring much-needed attention to San Antonio’s most vulnerable and at-risk communities.
“The Foundation tasked us with developing a project that would use media as a tool to serve vulnerable families and children,” Dodd explained, “We tested some ideas that were focused on national concerns, but as we got to know and love San Antonio and understand some of the most pressing local needs locally, we felt that this topic could benefit from sustained attention.”
The downtown districts have already experienced revitalization, and when coupled with Geekdom’s budding ecosystem of professional development and supporting local businesses and start-ups, Dodd knew Folo needed to be in the center of it.
“Entrepreneurialism is absolutely part of the answer to inequality, because people need jobs, and startups tend to provide jobs that pay more and offer more opportunity than jobs from aging firms.”
Dodd continued, “We’re also keeping an eye on the flow of venture capital to see if it spreads throughout the city via things like the Investing in Opportunity Act.”
But while business growth and entrepreneurs are part of the solution, what about on an individual level? For those of us who don’t have the start-up bug, how can we help encourage this vital conversation and begin to reverse this growing inequality in our city? Dodd’s answer is simple:
“Get involved. Local nonprofits do everything from building bikes for kids to serving food and making art. If you spend part of a day volunteering, you’ll make others aware because you’ll be wanting to talk about it.”
San Antonio is currently the seventh-largest city in the country, and although growing pains are inevitable, the Alamo city has all the talent and resources it needs to reverse the trend and spread the benefit to the entire population.
“This problem–systemic inequality–was created over decades, and it will take a long span of time to make systemic progress. Folo aims to cover every aspect of it because we think local citizens and institutions are going to have to throw everything at the problem,” Dodd wrote.
For more on Folo’s philosophy, or to read some of their recent articles, check out their website here, or stop by their office on the 7th floor!