Filling in the gaps in economic development is what the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation is about these days.
That’s according to the organization’s new executive director, Josh Mejia, who was selected for the job by the BCIC board in April after serving as interim director since January. He joined BCIC in 2016 as head of marketing and small business development.
Mejia said the organization, formed by the city in 2002 to fund quality-of-life projects and foster economic development, and funded through a quarter-cent sales tax, has been gaining momentum in recent months as opportunities to cultivate entrepreneurship and small business development have come into sharper focus.
”We want Brownsville to be the fertile ground for entrepreneurs to be able to scale up those businesses.Josh MejiaExecutive Director, BCIC
For one, BCIC is pursuing the creation of the eBridge Center for Business & Commercialization, an entrepreneurial resource center planned for the former La Casa del Nylon building, which would be renovated in the process. Another project is Expanding Horizons, a recently announced nonprofit entity aimed at encouraging growth of a commercial space sector in support of SpaceX through investments in developing human capital, essentially growing entrepreneurs.
“We’re playing a role of facilitating that growth and enhancing it in any way we can,” Mejia said. “Any innovations that are occurring in the privatization of space exploration, we want them to be hosted here. We want Brownsville to be the fertile ground for entrepreneurs to be able to scale up those businesses.”
Another priority is the Brownsville Sports Park, which BCIC built and owns. As BCIC’s biggest asset, the facility should be producing maximum return on investment, he said.
“Having this big asset in the city, we really needed to figure out a way to capitalize on the asset to provide a return on investment to the community, attract events, tourism and increase sales tax,” Mejia said.
The city, which maintains and operates the sports park with annual allocations from BCIC, is working to generate more activity at the sports park to get more return on investment, and it’s paying off, he said. The effort includes adding a business development specialist to the city’s parks and recreation department, Mejia said.
“That’s definitely helped increase that activity at the sports park,” he said.
BCIC is scheduled to pay off its debt obligation on the sports park in 2027, at which point the city will assume full ownership of the developed portion of the park and BCIC will keep the rest, Mejia said.
BCIC will also be working with the city as it develops a master plan for the area around the sports park, and plan that could include commercial as well as sports activity, he said. Brownsville is unlike many cities in that it has two economic development organizations, Mejia noted. BCIC shares headquarters at 500 E. St. Charles St. with its sister entity, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
He said BCIC’s intent is to fill the gaps in economic development to cover the entire spectrum, whether it’s in a complementary or supplementary role, in order to make the city more competitive. Mejia said BCIC is instilling in its staff and board the embrace of an open-door policy, not just for business or government people, but for everyone in the community.
“We want the community to feel that this is their economic development organization, and we want everybody to play some role in ensuring that we continue growing together, then everybody has a stake in whatever that growth is,” he said. “BCIC is open for business and we want the community to understand that.”