BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Brownsville is set to build the largest entrepreneurial center south of San Antonio.
The center will cover 36,000 square feet of space at a two-story building the City of Brownsville currently owns – 1304 E. Adams Street in Brownsville. An additional 24,000 square feet of space on the same block, which is connected, brings the total square footage to 60,000.
Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, Brownsville’s ‘type b’ economic development organization, is spearheading the project. It was approved by Brownsville City Commission at a recent commission meeting.
Josh Mejia, BCIC’s interim-executive director, said the purpose of the center is to create and foster scalable local businesses. He said the project is tentatively being called the ‘eBridge’, or the Center for Business & Commercialization.
“The objective was clear – create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that drives the creation of sustainable businesses that are scalable and impact the current and emerging industries found in our region,” Mejia said.
Mejia listed 20 “entrepreneurial assets” the new center will house:
- Business Incubation
- Global Launch Pad/Technology Launch Pad
- Virtual Incubator Space
- Business Planning & Development Workshops
- Market Research
- Educational Speaking Series
- B2B Networking Events
- Technology Commercialization Opportunities
- Mentoring Network
- Global Soft Landing Pad
- Small Business Boot Camps
- DreamBuilder Academy
- Small Business Tool Series Workshop
- “One-on-One” Counseling
- Venture Capitalist Network
- Building, Health & Fire Code Workshops
- Small Business Administration (SBA) Capital Opportunities
- Kauffman FastTrac
Mejia said the project was carefully designed by partners that include the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, the City of Brownsville, Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Women’s Business Center of the Rio Grande Valley to address several challenges found in Brownsville, Texas.
Among those challenges, Mejia said, are sustainability for business startups and the need to access capital for entrepreneurs. A venture capital firm will be involved in the project, along with the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, Brownsville’s ‘type’ economic development organization.
In a news release, Mejia said the project will serve as the “catalytic piece that ties in several community assets that bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and business opportunities found in the community’s current and emerging industries through its partnerships with UTRGV’s research and development facility, STARGATE and the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation (GBIC) upcoming advance manufacturing research and development facility.”
Mejia predicted “eBridge” will address identified challenges by consolidating many, if not all, of the business resources and programs needed “to create a healthy environment for those seeking to start up a sustainable business, expand a business or relocate it within the community.”
Mejia added: “It has been a tremendous opportunity and win for the community to be able to design a project of this stature. Our economic development organization, BCIC, and its key strategic partners are looking forward to the success of entrepreneurs in our community.”
Mejia said BCIC is also working with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council on the project.
Mejia said BCIC is working on a “Request for Proposal” process to attract engineers and architects that wish to work on the project. He said a groundbreaking ceremony could be held by mid-Summer.
Two weeks ago, at a workforce development summit, Brownsville leaders learned their city was the least digitally connected community in the nation. This information was provided by Jordana Barton, senior advisor for community development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Mejia said eBridge will help address the digital divide through the installation of the faster fiber optic network available in the Rio Grande Valley. With the new center acting as the hub, other parts of downtown Brownsville will be able to access high speed Internet via WiFi nodes.
Mejia said he learned a lot from the digital divide document Barton wrote for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
“Not only was Jordana’s perspective on the digital divide an essential element to this project, but the success stories related to this from several cities in the U.S. served as living testimonies of what our community can do for the entire South Texas region,” Mejia told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“We are anticipating this project to not only provide the fundamental resources our entrepreneurs need to produce sustainable businesses and initiate the catalytic step to bridge our digital divide through the power of fiber optics.”
Editor’s Note: For more information on eBridge, please contact Josh Mejia at (956) 346-3179 or via email at [email protected] Follow the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation via Facebook or through www.bcic.us for the most up-to-date information regarding programs, news, and eligibility requirements.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows the City of Brownsville-owned building at 1304 E. Adams Street that will be converted into the Center for Business & Commercialization.