WESLACO, RGV – Weslaco leaders hope and believe that a new “knowledge hub” will promote innovation and transform the region through the introduction of new programs to assist academia, entrepreneurs, investors, and industry.

The City of Weslaco, the Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco and UT-Rio Grande Valley are partnering to make the facility a modern innovation center for post-secondary education and training, business incubation, and locally-based research. It will also provide space for lectures, workshops and events.

Weslaco Mayor David Suarez
Weslaco Mayor David Suarez

The partnership has been cemented by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.

Weslaco Mayor David Suarez predicted the partnership will increase economic, business and educational opportunities in the Mid-Valley area. He said the innovation center will focus on education, innovation, entrepreneurship, economic development. “This is not just a win for Weslaco but for all of South Texas,” Suarez said.

Weslaco City Commissioner Fidel Peña agreed. “Now we have a place where young entrepreneurs can get help on developing their ideas to a point where it can be taken to market,” Peña said.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said of the new partnership: “This MOU is a testament to UTRGV’s goal to provide regional opportunities to not only our students and faculty, but to the community as well. The City of Weslaco is now considered a valuable, long-term partner and is a community that believes in the same core values as we do.”

Details on the new “knowledge hub” were unveiled in a news release issued by the Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco. It stated:

“The UTRGV College of Business and Entrepreneurship (COBE) plans to expand the existing Center for Innovation and Commercialization (CIC) and develop a mixed-use incubator while UTRGV intends to add classrooms and student services at property owned by the City of Weslaco located at 275 S. Kansas Avenue. The 16,225 square feet of presently unfinished space will be leased to UTRGV at a predetermined amount over a ten-year period. The City is committing the property, and the EDCW commits to $1.3 million dollars in renovation to the space. The three entities will jointly apply for grants to complete the project.

“Established in 2013, the CIC is in the process of bolstering its programs, services and offerings by instituting a business and technology incubator. Administered through the University’s College of Business and Entrepreneurship, the CIC furthers the University’s mission of education, research, and economic development. It will offer UTRGV faculty and students the opportunity to apply classroom learning to the real world experience of entrepreneurship and small business development. The CIC and proposed business and technology incubator will serve as the hub of entrepreneurism and economic development in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Mark Kroll, dean of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship at UTRGV, said that by providing high quality support and service to economically disadvantaged individuals and business firms with limited resources, the CIC and incubator will help guide the entrepreneurial process by supporting the creation of sustainable businesses to support economic development, and the overall prosperity of the Rio Grande Valley.

“The CIC will strengthen the economic development and entrepreneurial ecosystem by supporting businesses that have the potential to create new, higher-paying jobs and grow the economic base of the Rio Grande Valley,” Kroll said.

Mayor Suarez said there are additional plans to include classroom space and student services to provide a more centralized and convenient location for Mid Valley students to attend, register, and pay for classes. Expected completion date, he said, is first quarter 2017.

Joey Treviño, executive director of the Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco, pointed out that the MOU is not a binding obligation but rather a structure for a working relationship. “The signing of this MOU marks the start of UTRGV’s and the City of Weslaco’s drive to encourage business growth and access to education.”

UT-Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey
UT-Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey

Treviño added: “After many months of planning and collaboration with the UTRGV School of Business, the Weslaco EDC is proud and excited to announce that we are creating a new environment for the next generation entrepreneur in the Rio Grande Valley and we are committed to helping develop this entrepreneurial ecosystem which will transform not only the Mid Valley but all of south Texas. This is a great way to cultivate, grow and foster an entrepreneurial culture and community.”

Richard Talbert, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco, said the role of the EDC is to expand 21st Century job opportunities for area residents. “With the establishment of this partnership with UTRGV, we have taken a giant step to help meet this goal not only for today’s entrepreneurs but for future ones as well – and we look forward to a long and successful relationship with UTRGV,” Talbert said.

Joe D. Olivarez, vice president of the Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco, said: “Weslaco EDC has made and will continue to make tremendous strides in the expansion of our higher educational opportunities. Working with UTRGV just solidifies our commitment.”

Martha Noell, president and CEO of Weslaco Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Weslaco Area Chamber of Commerce welcomes UTRGV to Weslaco. The Chamber would also like to recognize the City of Weslaco and the Weslaco EDC for working to bring this great educational offering to the Mid-Valley.”

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series on economic development in Weslaco. Part Two, featuring Weslaco Mid Valley Airport, will be published early next week.