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MISSION, RGV – CodeRGV, a non-profit organization that promotes collaboration, innovation and education of software programming was awarded $150,000 from Texas Workforce Commission.

Alex Meade, chief executive officer of the Mission Economic Development Center (EDC), presented the future of local entrepreneurs at the Mission Center for Education and Economic Development (CEED).

“We went to survey the community and the response was that they wanted their EDC to focus more on supporting small business and talentdevelopment,” Meade said. “Basically, they wanted us to invest in local. Imagine an EDC investing in the community rather than owning, investing and recruiting companies. But then again if we don’t invest in ourselves, how do we expect others to invest in us? Education is the foundation to economic development.”

Mission EDC works closely with Sylvan Learning and created programs to invest in local businesses and technological education. These programs include Ruby Red Ventures, an industry that awards $100,000 every year to local entrepreneurs and Code the Town, an organization that also teaches people to program. Meade said since its inception, Ruby Red Ventures funded over 35 Mission based businesses and trained about 2,000 kids in computer science through Code the Town.

Mission EDC also partnered up with CodeRGV who created a 12-week intensive training course called (boot) to train people as software developers. The program features 10 to 12 hours a day, five days a week.

“Right now they’ve been utilizing our old office and I can tell you I’ve literally have seen adults crying the hallway,” Meade said. “That’s how intense [(boot)] is. These folks are on lockdown–they can’t get out of the classroom until they’re almost happy with the results.”

Julian Alvarez III, TWC commissioner representing labor, signed a check for $150,000. TWC awarded CodeRGV with a high demand job training grant in the amount of $75,000 that provides 750 hours of coding to 25 individuals for full stack developers. Mission EDC provided an additional $75,000 for stipends, laptops and software. Alvarez said the Rio Grande Valley made the economic shift from agriculture to technology.

“Technology touches everyone in our lives including our jobs and what we do for recreation,” Alvarez said. “This in turn has driven a high demand for developers with full understanding of all stages of computer software development, server and network environments and user interface security. … This transformation is nothing short of magical and it is the type of transformation that will continue to make the Valley and Texas economically strong.”

Mission EDC’s investment in computer science education stemmed from a lack of use of technology in business plans presented to Ruby Red Ventures. Because local entrepreneurs don’t know how to code, CEED made the investment in talent and continues to refer to it as “Economic Development 2.0.”

“The more we started looking at it from that standpoint, the more we realized that this really was an economic development issue because if we don’t develop the talent, we cannot recruit the companies,” Meade said. “Often times we would focus more on the companies than we would on the talent.”

Martin Garza, Jr., city manager for Mission, said education, entrepreneurship and technology will be housed in CEED. The incubator will also be working with Schreiner University in Kerrville. The partnership will pave the way for recruiting students from the Rio Grande Valley to attend a post secondary education up north.

“When we think about economic development, we think bringing in a restaurant, bringing in franchises, bringing in a hotel, but we forget the fundamentals,” Garza said. “We have been able to move forward from just bringing in businesses, [to] building the foundation that creates not only great futures in businesses, but great leaders.”

CEED is a 50,000-square-foot facility that features 23 offices as well as classrooms, a lecture hall and advanced technology. Meade said Rafael Chacon, president of Terreas Development, invested over $6 million.

“The purpose of this building is to develop local talent [and] small business,” Meade said. “And for him to not receive one single payment for almost two years is not something that anybody will do. That’s a testament [of] how supportive he was of this project.”

Beyond the statistics, CEED is meant to house a community of entrepreneurs. Meade said it’s not about competition, but about complementing each other to get the region to grow.

“We’re focusing on culture and the culture is creativity,” Meade said. “We want to make sure that we spur creativity so we’re not going to just allow any tenant to move in here–it’s got to be able to complement the other tenants that are here. But we feel that once we establish that culture of creativity and open mindedness … those bad apples will weed themselves out. But the whole concept behind it is to support entrepreneurship and what we call STEAM which is science, technology, engineering, art and math. And so we’re going to have our art component in here.”

Also in attendance was representative for Texas House District 38, state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, and the state Sen. for District 20, Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa. Hinojosa presented Mission EDC with a Texas flag that flew over the state capitol of Austin in honor of CEED and the expansion of technical education.

“At a state level, we see the changes that are taking place in our economy. We have made adjustments in our public education system and that’s important. Because now we focus and the changes taking place in our economy, was trying to focus more on engineering, science, technology [and] math to make sure that we prepare our youth and also like to go into business to be ready, to be educated in the needs that our business community needs. This type of program is so important not only to allow for entrepreneurship so that people want to start a business [to] get proper guidance [and] proper training, but also the creation of jobs so that people can make a living and be proud of what they do.”