Ron Garza speaks at RGV Startup Week

This article was originally published by Rio Grande Guardian

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – UT-Rio Grande Valley Associate Vice President Ron Garza says he “cannot say enough” about what Brownsville has done to help the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The centerpiece, he said, is the eBridge Center for Business & Commercialization.

Garza spoke on the first day of RGV StartUp Week, held at the eBridge Center.

According to the organizers – Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation and UT-Rio Grande Valley – RGV Startup Week is the perfect opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners to ignite their passion and explore their potential. Running from May 3 through May 10, the event is free and open to the public. The aim is to showcase the innovation and business growth potential the regional community has to offer.

Just before going on stage, Garza said he was chatting with keynote speaker David Fonseca and the entrepreneur asked him an intriguing question: is the needle moving.

Thanks to the eBridge Center, Garza said it most definitely is.

“At UTRGV, we work with cities all across the Rio Grande Valley, and everybody supports and sees the value of small businesses, right? But with this infusion that eBridge has done in just the last 14 months or so, the needle is moving to where the entrepreneurs are starting to take ownership in a way that is shaping the direction of what we do in support. That’s why we know it’s working,” Garza said.

“It’s not just government or entities or economic development organizations driving. It’s the entrepreneurs shaping it and moving it forward.”

Garza said he is “thrilled to see” UTRGV is playing an integral part in everything happening at the eBridge Center. And he asked for a round of applause for the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation “for creating this ecosystem.”

He also praised Linda Ufland Romo and her team in the Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center housed within the eBridge Center.

“Thank you, guys, for all your hard work. It’s definitely worth it and weeks like this prove it. So, thank you.”

Garza said Valley rightly prides itself on having a strong the entrepreneurial spirit.

“But it just doesn’t happen,” he said. “You have to be intentional about building that capacity. You have to be intentional about teaching entrepreneurs to take it to the next level.”

Garza said he had the opportunity last week to meet with some Department of Defense folks (in Chicago).

“They were talking about small businesses, two or three person operations, that were working with million-dollar (federal) contracts. So, events like this will change the narrative of what small business means. Why can’t our mom and pops be the millionaires and the next billionaires? They can.”

Garza said UTRGV is a very special place and a fine academic institution of higher education with 30,000-plus students. But, he said, at President Guy Bailey’s insistence, it is also a catalyst for change in the community.

“So, not all universities have community engagement and economic development programs like we do. We have a lot of infrastructure when it comes to building small businesses. Because the very fact is, there’s a lot of folks that graduate or don’t graduate that want to start their own businesses."