Author Archives: Eileen Mattei

Freelance writer Eileen Mattei was the editor of Valley Business Report for over 6 years. Her articles have appeared in Texas Highways, Texas Wildlife Association, Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Coop Power magazines as well as On Point: The Journal of Army History. The Harlingen resident is the author of five books: Valley Places, Valley Faces; At the Crossroads: Harlingen’s First 100 Years; and Leading the Way: McAllen’s First 100 Years, For the Good of My Patients: The History of Medicine in the Rio Grande Valley, and Quinta Mazatlán: A Visual Journey.

RGV Towns Share Nature Prize

Thousands of black-bellied whistling ducks visit Ibis Pond at Estero Llano Grande State Park every winter, attracting birders visiting the Rio Grande Valley. (VBR)

From the deck at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Mercedes, I watched approximately 2,000 black-bellied whistling ducks in Ibis Pond as they looked for food, perched on logs and bobbed in the chilly November water. The park’s 200 acres of woodlands, lakes and marshes shelter an amazing abundance of wildlife from seven alligators to diverse birds, butterflies and 24 mammal species as well as native plants.  The mid-Valley park…

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On the Road for Life

Ed Dramberger moved his travel industry consulting firm from New York to Brownsville. (Courtesy)

Ed Dramberger’s goal was to travel the world. Fifteen years ago, he started the business Destination Dr., a global consulting firm serving the travel industry, that has let him do just that. During November he is working in Stockholm and London but is back home in Brownsville for Thanksgiving. The past few months have taken the Destination Dr. to Vietnam, Galveston, China, India, Denver and Jacksonville, Fla. In 10 years,…

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Floods and Fighting Back

SS Auto Body Solutions owners Rachel Hinojosa and Rene Moreno next to a classic car in their shop. (VBR)

“In life you have to take chances. Sometimes the biggest risk you can take is not taking one,” said Rachel Hinojosa. Last year, she and her husband Rene Moreno opted to take a more active risk with their business SS Auto Body Solutions. In November 2017, one year after the couple had opened SS Auto Body Solutions in Harlingen, they jumped at the opportunity to lease a Mercedes building with…

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Ambiance Enhances Care

Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation in Mercedes offer hotel-like amenities as well as care provided partly by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine’s Family Residency Program. (VBR)

The sign outside reads Mid Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation. “I see it as a hotel,” said Alice Roel, the licensed nursing facility administrator for the Mercedes facility. “You register and have housekeeping, meals, activities, laundry and transportation provided round the clock with exceptional customer service.” The state-of-the-art complex, which Touchstone Strategies opened in November 2016, aims for a homey, hospitality ambiance rather than a medical or institutional atmosphere, Roel said.…

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Changing Lives with Music

Board certified Music Therapist Marisa de Leon, who plays a wide range of instruments, helps patients regain their ability to walk, move, remember and talk. (VBR)

Talk about a huge learning curve. Before board certified music therapist Marisa de Leon opened her business RGV Music Therapy and Wellness Center in May 2017, she had never held a full-time job other than a professional internship. One year later, de Leon is so busy seeing clients across the Valley that she recently contracted the services of another music therapist and transitioned to an LLC from a sole proprietorship.…

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Manufacturing services spur growth

IAI’s five Matamoros plants provide manufacturing services, such as laser etching, for American companies. (Courtesy)

When Bob Katusak launched International Assembly Inc. in Brownsville 26 years ago, he couldn’t have imagined how the company would evolve. In those pre-NAFTA days, businesses like his were known as shelter operations. In short, he established a manufacturing facility in Matamoros for small American companies that wanted to lower labor costs and contracted with IAI to oversee production, quality, labor and import/export paperwork. At that time, when AIDS was…

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IT Marketer Boosts Family Business

Andy Crockett handles website and social media marketing for the family business, gift fruit shipper Crockett Farms. (Courtesy)

Once upon a time, a small business’s IT person installed new systems and programs, trained staff to navigate them and fixed glitches. But that’s so 20 years ago. “Marketing has changed so much, especially for anyone like us who markets nationally. If you don’t stay on top of marketing trends, you lose market share,” said Terrie Crockett, who with her husband Allan runs the gift fruit shipper Crockett Farms. “There’s…

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Building a Future on the Past

Inside the restored Putegnat Building in Brownsville, Fernando Balli talks about the 1868 building. Designer Tina Garbo Bailey, who collaborated with Balli, stands to his right. (VBR)

While getting his degree in architecture and environmental design, Fernando Balli earned a C in architectural history. That is noteworthy because now, with Balli Property Group, he specializes in restoring historic architecture in Brownsville. The turning point came when, after restoring a 1931 house on Palm Boulevard that backs onto Town Resaca, he and his wife decided that, instead of flipping it, they would make it their home. The striking…

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Landscape Design: Beauty and Function

Andrew Heffner used native plants help this residential landscape design fit into the natural surroundings. (Courtesy)

While working for the city of McAllen as a landscape architect, Andrew Heffner realized the region could support a full-time business that catered to commercial, residential and public clients who needed a landscape architect. Five years ago, he opened Heffner Design Team as a one-man operation. Today he heads a full-time staff of four designing landscapes with the aim they be “beautiful, functional and meet the client’s budget.” Licensed by…

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Clark Shapes Clay into a Business

Sculptor Doug Clark shapes clay on a work in progress at his studio. (VBR)

“I’m not a be-still or sit-still kind of guy,” said sculptor Doug Clark in his Edinburg studio. The number and variety of bronze sculptures he has created in his 35-year career are a testament to that. In McAllen alone, 65 of Clark’s pieces are on display, including Quinta Mazatlan’s extraordinary statues of native animals and his Veterans War Memorial of Texas’s statues and remarkable Korean War plaques. His Janis Joplin…

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