Event attendees and speakers listen to an address by Rick Carrera, Director of Community & Economic Development for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, Wednesday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new eBridge Center in downtown Brownsville.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The transformation of the old La Casa del Nylon building at 1304 E. Adams St. into the eBridge Center for Business and Commercialization has been delayed by the pandemic, though the project achieved a major milestone Wednesday with a ceremonial groundbreaking in Brownsville.

The project is the product of years of collaboration by the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, City of Brownsville, Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, Lower Rio Grande Valley Economic Development Council, U.S. Economic Development Administration, U.S. Small Business Administration, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the UTRGV Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center. The renovation of the building is made possible through through EDA and BCIC grants.

The eBridge Center will be a business incubator that provides the next generation of entrepreneurs with the skills and resources they need to be able to access capital, scale up commercially and create jobs, and help young companies be “better versions of themselves,” said BCIC board Chairman Michael Limas.

“Given that small businesses drive our economy it’s important that emerging entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups have a place to go that eliminates the barriers to growth and helps them turn their dreams into reality,” he said.

A large sign announces the future home of Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation’s future eBridge Center for Business and Commercialization Wednesday at the groundbreaking ceremony on Adams Street.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez, taking the podium next, said the eBridge project reflects a new attitude and vision for the city. Like the Casa del Nylon building itself, Brownsville for years was somewhat forgotten and neglected like a “dusty book on the shelf,” though that’s no longer the case, he said.

“We’re back and we’re back in a big way,” Mendez said, describing the eBridge concept as a “new way to innovate, a new way to move into the future.”

Also speaking was Rick Carrera, director of community and economic development for the Weslaco-based Lower Valley Economic Development Council, the EDA-designated economic development district for the region. He said eBridge will allow Brownsville to “grow your own businesses, grow your own entrepreneurs,” and pledged his organization’s continuing assistance.

“We believe in Brownsville just as much as you all do,” Carrera said. “We’re all for this.”

Event attendees stop to sign the event poster that will be laser-etched into a display for the completed building Wednesday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new eBridge Center in downtown Brownsville.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Esmy Villarreal, Brownsville chamber president and CEO, praised the partnership making eBridge possible and said she’s grateful for the opportunity to promote and support small businesses, entrepreneurs and research in the name of economic development. Mexican Consul Juan Carlos Cue Vega was also among the dignitaries present and said he’s confident Matamoros and Mexico will also benefit from the eBridge Center as well.

Veronica Gonzalez, UTRGV senior vice president of governmental and community relations, said UTRGV agree to move its Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center into the eBridge Center, and that entrepreneurs and small businesses will have the benefit of that university’s business incubator as well as UTRGV’s Small Business Development Center, Procurement Technical Assistance Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center and Center for Innovation and Commercialization, plus the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center.

“If there’s one thing that we’ve learned, it’s that alone we can’t do it all but together the possibilities are endless,” she said.

BCIC Executive Direct Josh Mejia said the ribbon cutting for the eBridge Center likely will take place in January.

Mexican Consul Juan Carlos Cue Vega addresses the crowd Wednesday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new eBridge Center in downtown Brownsville.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“We had delays due to COVID,” he said. “It slowed everybody down. The hard stuff for the first floor has already been done. The second tough part is the roof. We’re going to remove the roof and put a new roof on.”

The eBridge Center is all about consolidating essential resources for entrepreneurs not only to start businesses but to scale up their operations, Mejia said. He characterized the groundbreaking as a “very special moment for all the partners,” and put the day’s main takeaway in the form of a question.

“What are we doing in the community, this four-county region, to help our Hispanic entrepreneurs thrive and succeed?” he said.