Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation racks up more awards

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The Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation brought home two International Economic Development Council awards from IEDC’s 2023 conference, which was held in Dallas Sept. 17-20.

It’s the third year in a row BCIC has won IEDC awards. This year BCIC won a Gold Award in the “Partnerships with Educational Institutions” category and a Bronze for “Best Use of Federal Economic Development Resources.” BCIC said the awards highlight its “commitment to improving the economic landscape and overall quality of life in the Brownsville community.”

A “Type B” economic development entity whose operations and business assistance efforts are funded by a half-cent city sales tax, BCIC describes its mission as enhancing “quality of life through innovative and equitable economic development initiatives.” The Gold Award from IEDC was in recognition of collaboration between BCIC and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in establishing the eBridge Center for Business and Commercialization.

Ebridge is the largest start-up business incubator and resource center of its kind in the Valley, providing services to entrepreneurs and businesses in collaboration with UTRGV’s Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center, the city of Brownsville, U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Lower RGV Development Council, according to BCIC.

Ebridge is home to the StartUp Texas Accelerator Program, a U.S. Patent Trade Resource Center, Small Business Development Center, Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center, Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center and Nonprofit Resource Center.

Nathan Burkhart, BCIC director of business development, said eBridge brings to Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley the type of programming, resources and incentives normally found only in larger cities.

“The ability to mimic what is possible in the private sector with two public institutions working together is what makes the eBridge Center so special,” he said.

IEDC awarded BCIC the Bronze for its eBridge Fund initiative, a revolving loan fund aimed at facilitating financial support for new and existing businesses that lack access to traditional bank financing, to help those businesses grow and succeed in the competitive market. BCIC said 13 business ventures in Cameron County have been funded by eBridge Fund so far, with $2.2 million disbursed and 519 jobs created or retained.

BCIC President and CEO Cori Pena congratulated her team, singling out Victoria Padron, BCIC director of economic development finance.

“Victoria’s hard work and dedication have been a cornerstone in the eBridge Fund,” Pena said. “Her commitment to facilitating business growth in our community inspires and deserves this recognition. I am immensely proud to have Victoria as leader of this program.”

Linda Ufland Romo, director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Commercialization for UTRGV’s Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center, said the center’s partnership with BCIC “is pioneering a new era of entrepreneurship in Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley.”

She said the eBridge Center is driving economic growth by empowering local entrepreneurs and giving them the resources and opportunities they need to thrive in the region.

IEDC President and CEO Nathan Ohle praised BCIC for raising the bar “excellence in economic development with its programs and partnerships.”

“These awards are a testament to BCIC’s dedication to its residents and serve as a great example of how economic development can help transform a community for the better,” he said.

BCIC was among IEDC award winners in seven countries and 38 U.S. states, the winners chosen by a panel of 76 judges. IEDC is a nonprofit membership organization with a membership of more than 4,300 public and private economic developers.