The fast pace of growth on San Antonio’s Southside presents dynamic business opportunities and reveals a critical need for small business resources. Southside First provides tools and resources to support small businesses.
Dedicated to serving and growing Southside San Antonio.
Meet OUR Executive Director
Gabriela Cadena was appointed Interim Executive Director of the Southside First Economic Development Council in November 2021. She was confirmed as Chief Executive Officer in April 2022. Ms. Cadena is experienced in the insurance industry in San Antonio. She worked in New York City and Washington, DC and holds several certifications: Professional Project Management (PMP), Series 6, Series 63 and Texas Insurance licenses. She is multilingual in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Southside First serves as the voice for economic prosperity, community bridging and responsible development in south San Antonio and Bexar County. Ms. Cadena facilitates business, economic development and community revitalization efforts and partners with community and neighborhood residents and stakeholders in San Antonio’s Southside.
Ms. Canales has extensive experience working in executive leadership at the federal, state, local, and nonprofit level. She served in two presidential administrations. Ms. Canales was appointed by President Barack Obama as the Texas State Executive Director for the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency where she was the first woman and Latina to serve in this role. She was the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development. In 2009, President Obama named Ms. Canales as Administrator for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service at USDA Rural Development in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Canales was the Executive Director of the Maverick County Development Corporation in Eagle Pass, Texas. She served as an adjunct faculty member for Southwest Texas Junior College. She was the Executive Director of the International Hispanic Network, a national membership organization of Hispanic city managers and served as the Assistant City Manager for the City of Eagle Pass.
President Bill Clinton appointed Ms. Canales as Deputy State Director for the USDA Rural Development Texas State Office where she worked to bring financing for housing, community facilities, and businesses to rural communities throughout Texas. She served as the Acting Associate Administrator for Rural Business and Cooperative Service in Washington, D.C. and as the Legislative Representative for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Ms. Canales served as the Legislative Representative for housing, community and economic development in the Washington, D.C. office of New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins. She worked for the Low Income Housing Information Service and the National Council of La Raza now known as UnidosUS. She co-authored the NCLR policy report, “The Hispanic Housing Crisis.”
Canales is a doctoral student in Leadership Studies at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. She received a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, a Master of Arts in Urban Studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and an Associate of Arts from Southwest Texas Junior College.