EDINBURG, RGV – All the projections show a huge growth in the population of South Texas over the coming decades but what are the forecasts for the region’s neighbors across the Rio Grande?

Pauline Nuñez, data dissemination specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, says her counterparts in Mexico can provide this information and are willing and able to come to the Rio Grande Valley to provide an update.

Pauline Nuñez
Pauline Nuñez

“What about population trends on Mexican side? This is always a question I am asked when I am on the border. When you are on the border and looking at economic development you must incorporate the whole region,” Nuñez said, on a recent visit to the Rio Grande Valley.

“For example, when I am in El Paso the region is southern New Mexico, El Paso and Hudspeth counties and Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua. What I know they have done in El Paso is invited the Mexican Census Bureau over the border to talk about their data. I do not know what has been happening on this side of the border but I know in El Paso the University of Texas at El Paso has sponsored a session where they have brought over the Mexican Census Bureau. The session was given in Spanish, you had to speak Spanish but they did a presentation on what that side of the border looks like. Reaching out to the Mexican Census Bureau is definitely happening and I think it is a good step.”

Nuñez made her comments in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian. She was in the Valley for two workshops, one given to municipalities in Mission and the other given to Small Business Development staff at UT-Rio Grande Valley. This workshop was held in Edinburg and was organized by Saigirdhar Mullapudi, a business and economic research associate at UTRGV.

At the Edinburg event, Nuñez focused on a new data tool the Census Bureau recently unveiled. It is called the Census Business Builder and it is designed to help small business owners access important Census Bureau data.

“There has been an emphasis on mega data users and the small business edition of Census Business Builder has been a step towards servicing the small business owner with a tool that is easy to follow,” Nuñez said.

“It has three easy steps. Business owners can choose the type of business they are either interested in opening or a location they want to expand to. It is very easy. You have to get to Census.gov and Data Tools to use it but once you are there, it asks you questions, it produces a map, it asks you what information you are interested in, in terms of demographic and economic data. You can view it on a map and then you can click on a map and get a local business profile on your industry. So, you don’t have to be a mega data user or a sophisticated statistician to use this tool. We have designed it to be easy to use.”

Nuñez said the Census Business Builder was unveiled for the first time in San Francisco in September. She said more data will be added to it in the coming months. “We plan to add more industries and you will be able to pull up a report, not only at the city or county level but at a neighborhood level or a zip code level by the first quarter of 2016. We are continuing to refresh Census Business Builder and make it better each quarter.”

Nuñez is based in Denver, Colorado, and covers the Southwest Region of the United States. She can visit a community to explain the data tools the Census Bureau offers or she can host a webinar, providing training over the Internet. She said she liked the audience Mullapudi had assembled. The small business development specialists were able to participate in a live, hands-on, computer lab.

“The people here work with clients. This is the type of audience we like to have in our training because we know that when we train someone like a counselor in a small business development center, that they are using their knowledge to train others. It is kind of like a train the trainer event.”

Nuñez said the workshop held earlier in the day in Mission was useful for various city departments, such as planning, emergency management, social services, and budget analysis.

Asked if there is anything else she would like to tell Rio Grande Guardian readers, Nuñez said: “Go to our website, Census.gov and then look at Data Tools and you will find Census Business Builder there. It is a great tool for small businesses to use. We welcome people’s input.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Pauline Nunez of the U.S. Census Bureau with staff members from UT-Rio Grande Valley’s small business development office.