Judith Canales Steps Down as Executive Director

After almost three years, the Southside First Economic Development Council announces the departure of Judith A. Canales as the organization’s Executive Director. Southside First is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve as the voice for economic prosperity, community bridging, and responsible development for the southside of San Antonio and Bexar County.

Ms. Canales steps down from Southside First to lead an economic development organization in another community. Gabriela Cadena will serve as interim executive director for Southside First.

During Ms. Canales’ tenure, Southside First became a small business development organization providing technical assistance and resources to small businesses. At the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020, Southside First assisted southside small businesses to secure 467 grants totaling $8.56 million from the Bexar County Strong Small & Micro Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program and the City of San Antonio COVID-19 Recovery Grant Program.

“Southside First reached new heights during Judith’s tenure,” stated Board Chair Joe Pena. “The organization is a trusted community partner assisting small businesses to grow and stabilize and collaborating with southside neighborhoods to understand and communicate their community economic development needs.” 

Southside First, with the support of the City of San Antonio and the St. Mary’s University Harvey Najim Business Innovation Center, conducted in-person community surveys of residents and small business owners and produced the Mission San Jose and Quintana Community and Business Survey Reports (2019-2020). Community members identified resources needed to strengthen existing small businesses and their preference for small businesses that are not currently located in the southside.

Southside First conducts the Echale Gas! Small Business Workshops for new and existing small business owners. The workshops, held in City Council Districts 3,4, and 5, featured resources, technical assistance and access to capital opportunities for small businesses. Southside First worked with the Mission San Jose Neighborhood Association and the Quintana Community Neighborhood Association to identify topics for the workshops and to gain participation of community members.

“It has been an honor to work with the small business owners and residents of San Antonio’s southside,” stated Ms. Canales. Over 7000 small businesses are owned and operated in this region. “The pandemic proved that small businesses are the driving force for services, goods, and employment in San Antonio. We must support them to maintain a viable economy.” 

Ms. Canales worked to strengthen Southside First’s position by pursuing the 501(c)3 nonprofit status for the organization. Southside First was founded by the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce in 2017.

Ms. Canales was named by City Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran to the City of San Antonio’s Small Business Advisory Commission. She graduated from the LISC San Antonio Leadership Development Program, served on the San Antonio-Bexar County Complete Census County Committee, and the San Antonio Small Business Ecosystem Committee. Ms. Canales is a PhD Candidate in Leadership Studies at Our Lady of the Lake University.