Ufland Romo: eBridge Center will be largest entrepreneurial hub south of San Antonio

WESLACO, Texas – A key stakeholder in the development of the eBridge Center for Business and Commercialization gave an update on the project recently.

Linda Ufland Romo, director of entrepreneurship, innovation, and commercialization for UT-Rio Grande Valley, spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

Held at the Hampton Inn in Weslaco, the event was staged to say thank you to the cities and economic development corporations that have participated in RGVP’s monthly commercialization and investment tours.

The eBridge Center for Business and Commercialization is being developed in downtown Brownsville by the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) and UTRGV. The objective of eBridge, according to BCIC Executive Director Josh Mejia, is to “enable any entrepreneur with an idea to turn it into a commercial venture that can be scaled up and grow tremendously.”

The eBridge Center for Business and Commercialization is due to open its doors in the summer of 2022.

In her remarks, Ufland Romo said eBridge is a collaboration between UTRGV and the BCIC.

“We helped fund this facility in downtown Brownsville. It is a 36,000 square foot facility that we are renovating to become the largest entrepreneurial hub south of San Antonio,” Ufland Romo said.

“Among other things, we will be housing one of the UTRGV business incubators. We will have on hand all the programs and resources that we have developed for small businesses and scalable businesses.”

Among these, Ufland Romo said, will be StartUp Texas, a BCIC sponsored seed fund that invests in Texas-based seed and early stage companies. Qualified candidates and graduates of the eBridge Center will have a chance to compete for a share of $100,000 through our program.

“StartUp Texas will have regional reach, not just Brownsville,” Ufland Romo said.

The eBridge Center will dedicate about 18,000 square feet for training rooms, conference rooms, incubation and co-working space, Ufland Romo explained. 

“On the second floor we will have a Maker Space area, for research and development, for any entrepreneurs that are still seeking to develop or are continuing to work on their technology, from advanced manufacturing, health, aerospace, anything related to the emerging industries that we are seeing popping up here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Ufland Romo said.

Ufland Romo said the stakeholders involved in the eBridge Center project were honored to receive a visit recently from Alejandra Y. Castillo, assistant secretary of commerce for the Economic Development Administration. The EDA pumped $900,000 into the eBridge Center project.

“This was the first time the assistant director had come down to the Valley in about 15 years,” Ufland Romo said. “The assistant secretary had a tour of our center and explored the opportunities of us continuing to get support from the federal government to grow the project.”

Ufland Romo urged those at the luncheon to come and see the eBridge Center.

“We are excited about this project. It is going to be a state of the art facility that will enhance technology and entrepreneurship in the Valley. We will be using our own incubation membership to really focus on bringing all the technology available within the building to showcase what some of our members are capable of doing,”Ufland Romo said.

“We are bringing in sustainability models, sustainability goals that have social impact. It is going to be a very inclusive and diverse space for everyone to be part of.”

During her visit to the eBridge Center, Castillo, the EDA assistant secretary, said: ““There were a lot of elements of this particular project that were very much in line with what EDA does. So, this is exciting, because this is about planting the seed of those industries of tomorrow.”

Following the tour, Castillo participated in an informal roundtable discussion at UTRGV’s Gran Salon with to learn the challenges the region currently faces in equity, inclusion, economic development, workforce development, supply chain, and cross-border.

Among those participating were Ufland Romo, Mejia, Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez, Texas Southmost College President Jesus Roberto Rodriguez, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez and EDA Regional Director Jorge Ayala. 

Editor’s Note: The above news story is the second in a series of stories from a recent Rio Grande Valley Partnership luncheon that was held to recognize the cities and economic development corporations that have participated in the RGVP’s monthly commercialization and investment tours. Click here to read Part One.

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