UTRGV partners with City of Weslaco and WEDC on entrepreneurial hub project

Artist rendering of the exterior renovation for the UTRGV Center for Innovation and Commercialization (Photo Courtesy of Weslaco EDC)

By Melissa Vasquez

WESLACO, TEXAS – JAN. 29, 2016 – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has partnered with the City of Weslaco and the Weslaco Economic Development Center (WEDC) to help support the university’s ongoing efforts to enhance its entrepreneurship infrastructure and strengthen the economic viability of Valley communities.

The collaborative partnership will expand the UTRGV College of Business and Entrepreneurship’s existing Center for Innovation and Commercialization (CIC) and develop a mixed-use business incubator to include classroom space, student services and start-up business support functions.

“The City of Weslaco is a valuable, long-term partner and is a community that believes in the same core values as we do,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said during the recent signing of an official memorandum of understanding.

The mutually beneficial goal of the partnership is to broaden UTRGV’s presence in the Mid-Valley and help boost economic, business and educational opportunities for the area.

At the signing, Bailey said the MOU is a testament to UTRGV’s mission of providing regional opportunities not only for its students and faculty, but also for area communities.

The CIC will be located at 275 S. Kansas Ave., on property owned by the City of Weslaco, and the 16,225 square feet of currently unfinished space will be leased to UTRGV at a predetermined amount over a 10-year period.

“This is not just a win for Weslaco but for all of South Texas,” said Weslaco Mayor David Suarez.

The city is committing the property, and the WEDC is dedicating $1.3 million to renovate the space.

All three partners will jointly apply for grants to complete the project.

Richard Talbert, president of the Weslaco EDC, said the primary goal of the Weslaco EDC is to expand job opportunities for 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,” Talbert said. “We look forward to a long and successful relationship with UTRGV.”

Under the direction of UTRGV’s College of Business and Entrepreneurship, the CIC is looking to expand its existing programs, services and offerings by also starting a business and technology incubator. The new space will give UTRGV faculty and students the opportunity to apply classroom learning to the real-world experience of entrepreneurship and small business development.

Dr. Mark Kroll, dean of the UTRGV College of Business and Entrepreneurship, said the ultimate goal of the CIC is “to create an entrepreneurial hub that will become known as the center for new business creation and innovation in the Rio Grande Valley.”

He said he is thankful to the City of Weslaco and the WEDC for providing a central location for the CIC and its new business incubator. He expects the center will strengthen the Valley’s economic development and entrepreneurial ecosystem by supporting businesses with the potential to create new, higher-paying jobs and grow the economic base of the region.

ABOUT THE CIC

An Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant in 2012 allowed legacy institution UT Brownsville/Texas Southmost College to create the CIC, under the guidance of the College of Business, and at the time it was designated one of six regional University Centers. In fall 2015, the EDA grant was transferred to UTRGV to continue the center’s efforts.

Laurie G. Simmons, CIC manager, said the main focus of the center is to work with university and college faculty and students to encourage the commercial exploitation of ideas developed in their labs. The center also reaches out to the local community leaders and small business owners in an effort to identify ideas that have not been pursued due to lack of support.

Simmons said businesses throughout the region are encouraged to take advantage of the center’s resources, which assist researchers, start-ups and entrepreneurs in pioneering new technologies, businesses and partnerships.

“The faculty and graduate students together will be able to provide cost-free consulting and assistance to local small- and medium-size businesses. Through a collaborative effort, these businesses receive support on business and technical issues,” Simmons said.

Currently, the center works with six to seven small companies, each with a different need and provided with a range of services from market assessments to fine-tuning business plans. Training and workshops are also offered.

“There are future plans to include legal and financial assistance, mentoring, management and marketing, and grant support, as well as access to capital,” Simmons said.

While providing university faculty, students and staff assistance in entrepreneurial education, the Mid-Valley CIC will provide a seamless connection between all parties working to advance the region’s economic wealth, she said.

“Being in the Mid-Valley provides a convenient location for all campuses, as well as for potential business clients. Because we are strategically located, we will be able to reach more stakeholders throughout the Valley,” Simmons said.

Renovations for the new facility will be completed in 2017.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Marci.Caltabiano@UTRGV.edu UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications
956-665-2742

Jennifer.McGehee@UTRGV.edu UTRGV Director of Public Relations
956-882-5105