The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation is done with the environmental assessment phase of a proposed project to transform the former La Casa del Nylon building at 1304 E. Adams St. into a one-stop resource center for entrepreneurs.
The next phase will involve architectural and engineering studies on the vacant building, built in 1967 and purchased by the city in 2012. BCIC is waiting for word from the U.S. Economic Development Administration on a grant application that BCIC hopes will be approved to help the economic development organization cover the cost of renovating the building.
“We’re also sharing everything with the EDA as well, since we’re in the midst of the application process, trying to determine if we’re a good fit for funding,” BCIC Executive Director Josh Mejia said.
“But regardless of EDA funding, the BCIC board has already committed to ensuring that we finance the entire project. If EDA does not come through, we will still be able to sustain the development of that project.”
The center will be devoted to creating a pipeline of scalable businesses, or commercial ventures capable of multiplying revenue with minimal investment, and will also house resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses, such as nonprofit micro-lenders and entities that assist with patent rights, trademarks and assorted legal services.
An incubator component for nurturing start-up businesses is another component of the project, in which BCIC is collaborating with the city, the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Women’s Business Center Rio Grande Valley.
Plans call for UTRGV’s Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center, the university’s business incubator in Brownsville now located on East Price Road, to move its offices to the center. Consolidating the city’s resources for entrepreneurs under one roof is the purpose of the project, Mejia said.
The eBridge strategic plan, adopted in November, lays out four key strategic goals, starting with “investment in our community that creates new jobs.”
”We’re working with our Mexican partners to be able to find a link between their innovation center, INDEX Matamoros (Maquiladora Association of Matamoros), and figuring out a way to provide them with a space in the center, so whatever innovation occurs on the other side, those businesses can start on this side of the border.Josh MejiaExecutive Director, BCIC
Under that heading, the plan calls for creating a space for entrepreneurs to pursue development for start-ups and business expansion opportunities, helping small businesses overcome funding challenges, creating business-friendly policies and investment opportunities, and leveraging incentives and grants for small businesses.
The second strategic goal calls for “marketing the bi-national region as a business-friendly zone” with eBridge as the focal point, which in part entails marketing Brownsville as a business and entrepreneurship hub, focusing on business retention and recruitment, and promoting the region’s multicultural aspect to domestic and international entrepreneurs through a bilingual campaign.
The plan’s other general strategic goals are creating a “resource hub” for policy makers and organizations involved in small-business development that are interested in advocating for the small business community, and promoting sustainability, partly by becoming the leading business-friendly community south of San Antonio.
Mejia said the hope is that eBridge will work for entrepreneurs on both sides of the border.
“We’re working with our Mexican partners to be able to find a link between their innovation center, INDEX Matamoros (Maquiladora Association of Matamoros), and figuring out a way to provide them with a space in the center, so whatever innovation occurs on the other side, those businesses can start on this side of the border,” he said.
“We want to be able to foster that synergy to benefit the entrepreneurs of both regions.”