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We want to create a community, a culture for entrepreneurs

Josh Mejia, Executive Director

By Mario Munoz • February 24, 2020

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation is seeking to partner with for-profit and non-profit organizations or corporations that seek creative approaches to advance economic prosperity in the city.

The Type B Economic Development Corporation has started its 2020 Economic Impact Grant Program.

“We’re looking to assist with transformational projects that enhance the quality of life for our residents while also enhancing the economic well-being of the community,” said Cori Peña, director of community development at BCIC.

“We are looking for those special public-private projects that can present unconventional approaches to problems, be pivotal in the redevelopment of our Historic Downtown, increase recreational tourism, or help spur small business development all while increasing sales tax revenue and fostering investment opportunities.”

Josh Mejia, executive director of BCIC, said the Economic Impact Grant will ultimately replace the previously known BCIC “Capital Projects Grant.” Through this opportunity, he said, the BCIC will partner with organizations by supplementing up to $400,000 towards projects or initiatives that will enhance the economic well-being of the community, promote sustainable business development and employment opportunities, and attract public/private investments.

“We’re looking to assist with transformational projects that enhance the quality of life for our residents while also enhancing the economic well-being of the community,”

Cori PeñaDirector of Community Development

“We want to be smart about the growth of our City” Mejia said. “We have been working in collaboration with the City of Brownsville on where our future growth and sustainability needs should be, and we welcome projects that meet our requirements in a way that promotes economic development opportunities.”

Mejia spoke about the 2020 Economic Impact Grant Program at a recent economic development information forum hosted at by the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce and held at the Brownsville Event Center.

Mejia said BCIC strives to fund endeavors that are distinctive and novel in their approach and encourages organizations to develop projects that have the potential for transformative impact to the community.

He said the the process includes a two-step application, which requires applicants to schedule a mandatory preliminary meeting before beginning the full application process.

At the chamber event Mejia also spoke about eBridge, a 36,000 square foot building that will house programs by BCIC and other organizations to help entrepreneurs develop their businesses. It will include an incubator for startups. The Economic Development Administration believed in the project so much it awarded a $900,000 grant.

“We want to create a community, a culture for entrepreneurs,” Mejia said.

There was warm applause from the audience when Mejia announced the EDA grant. He said BCIC is currently doing architectural work and hopes to announce a construction Request for Proposal this month. If all goes according to plan redevelopment could be completed within the next 14 to 16 months. The eBridge could then open early next year.

Mejia said some budding entrepreneurs have asked if any of the programs that will be offered in the eBridge are available now. He said they are.

“These programs essential to create that culture and hopes to create Brownsville as a focal point or capital of entrepreneurship south of San Antonio,” Mejia said. “It adds the vibrancy and economic vitality of our city.”

Mejia said BCIC has noticed in its findings that Brownsville keeps getting labeled as living in one of the poorest communities or poorest counties in the country.

“That has a very horrible stigma when we begin having these entrepreneurs talking to private lenders. As soon as we have an entrepreneur talk to a private lender, the private lender tends to put this huge x in front of their face and this essentially concludes with a ‘no approval’ for a loan,” Mejia told the audience at the Brownsville Chamber event.

“We thought to ourselves, if we are creating a culture, creating a community for these entrepreneurs, we need to address capital attainment.”

Mejia said thanks to UT-Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville already has 15 businesses that are currently being incubated as part of a BCIC program.

“Three of which have been identified as scalable businesses, ready to create new jobs and expand operations. We are talking about businesses that range from the food industry to logistics, manufacturing and tech,” Mejia said.

“Yes, we are actually working with tech companies here in the community, something I thought was impossible to do here in South Texas. But we have the resources necessary to be able to do this and in collaboration with the city we are working on the infrastructure necessary for that.”

Mejia’s remarks at the chamber event have been turned into the following podcast: