BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) recently launched a new grant program for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to jump-start their venture.
Through StartUp Texas, the BCIC will provide seed-stage capital – between $5,000 and $20,000 – to individuals and businesses with products or processes that will economically benefit the region.
Josh Mejia, executive director of the BCIC, announced the organization’s latest initiative at Brownsville’s CROSSROADS festival. While speaking at a CROSSROADS Talk session, he explained the BCIC’s renewed push to forge paths that lead to economic stimulation and growth for the area.
They started by switching tactics, moving from a more traditional economic development plan, in which a city endeavors to draw in a large corporation with every incentive available to them, to a “home-grown” technique that focuses on entrepreneurship in the community.
Mejia said the group then explored possible barriers entrepreneurs in the Rio Grande Valley might face when trying to actualize their business ideas and goals.
“Are we really an area that is lacking resources?” asked Mejia. “What makes our area so high-risk compared to all these larger other metropolitan areas?”
With many assets such as a young workforce, great institutions of higher learning, and abundant land, the BCIC zeroed in on the problem.
“There’s one factor that’s affecting our area tremendously,” said Mejia. “…It’s capital.”
“Now, we have … a regional university that provides skills, a technical college, community college, but capital attainment is a big one. You see, a lot of folks here are very passionate, but … we also live in a very poor community. And when you don’t have capital to start something, you’re very high-risk. You might be very good at selling an idea, but, at the end of the day, they’ll run your numbers; they’ll check your revenue streams; they’ll check your expenditures, and you’ll be labeled high-risk. This whole area has a huge ‘x’ for private lenders.”
To overcome this hurdle, the BCIC moved quickly to design programs that addressed this issue. As a Type B economic development corporation, they had more avenues to tailor initiatives for almost every type of business and entrepreneur. In the past two years, they introduced the Business Improvement & Growth (BIG) Program for downtown revitalization, the Economic Impact Grant for bigger investors, and the eBridge Center for Business & Commercialization as a resource and incubator for entrepreneurs.
StartUp Texas was created for smaller enterprises. It will provide funding and expert guidance to individuals and companies on the cusp of success – those in need of cash to start or grow their business as well as guidance to refine their plans. Additionally, grant recipients will also have the option to use the funding as a down payment for a 7(a) loan through the Small Business Administration, opening the door for more capital investment. Qualifying applicants who plan to operate in Brownsville, will be able to compete in the StartUp Texas Pitch Summit for a piece of $100,000. The BCIC anticipates the program will benefit many who struggle to get their companies off the ground.
Those interested in the new program are invited to join an info session on Wednesday, March 18, or Thursday, March 19, at the Historic Young House at 500 E. St. Charles St. To RSVP, visit info.startuptexas.com. The deadline to apply is April 8. The StartUp Texas Pitch Summit will be on May 6 at the Brownsville Performing Arts Academy. For more information about the program and its guidelines, visit startuptexas.com.
Editor’s Note: The above news story is the first in a two-part series about Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation. Part Two will be published early next week.