WESLACO, RGV – A groundbreaking ceremony for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Center for Innovation and Commercialization will take place within the next few months, says Weslaco Mayor David Suarez.

Suarez said a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has helped make the $2.8 million center possible. Because of its focus on entrepreneurship, the center could become a “game-changer,” not just for Weslaco and the Mid-Valley but the Valley as a whole, Suarez said.

Weslaco Mayor David Suarez

“We are so excited about this project. We are almost at the end and the lease has been negotiated, and we are going to go and bid it out for contract,” Suarez said.

Suarez said having the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council in Weslaco has helped because this Council of Government (COG) works well with the EDA.

“EDA has really helped Weslaco because the COG is in Weslaco, UTRGV is now in Weslaco, and we have some EDA money. We are very grateful for that, and they have become good partners. I have learned that they will help you if it’s something regional,” Suarez said.

“The UTRV Innovation and Commercialization is in Weslaco but it’s a regional project. The COG, UTRGV, the partnership that is going on and the signing of an MOPU with UTRGV President Dr. Bailey all helps. For me it’s exciting. It’s a done deal.”

In 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with UTRGV was signed by the City of Weslaco and the Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco. The MOU initiated a partnership to “broaden UTRGV’S presence in the Mid-Valley.”

According to a UTRGV news release, the facility will be a modern innovation center for postsecondary education and training, business incubation and locally-based research.

CIC, as the new center is being called, will dedicated to help economically disadvantaged individuals and businesses firms with limited resources by providing high quality support, the news release stated.

Suarez told the Rio Grande Guardian the location is beneficial to the center. It is next door to LRGVDC and its international trade building. Mayor Suarez said he has no doubts CIC will help the economic development of his city.

“We are touting that and for us that is huge, it is really going to help the economic development and what we are already doing. It’s going to help this region, and it’s big for Weslaco because Weslaco’s location, being in the middle of the Valley, is its biggest asset.”

The CIC will be located on 275 S. Kansas Avenue in Weslaco, and it is expected to open by Jan. 1, 2018.

Suarez said CIC is part of the 2017 city plans that were announced in Weslaco’s State of the City Address on Feb. 28.

In the address, Suarez said a new firehouse and a 50-acre park are among the top new projects for Weslaco.

The event’s theme was called “Las Luces Estan Prendidas,” a reference to the historic ‘tinaco’ which is lit with lights when the Weslaco Panthers football team obtains a win.

This year, Suarez said the tinaco lights signified the city’s progressive development.

“We use that metaphor because we feel that it’s not only in the playing field, but it’s for our citizens. We can see the growth of Weslaco, and we can say ‘las luces estan prendidas’.”