Art Alcantar spent years away from his native Rio Grande Valley building a multimedia career that specializes in digital and social media marketing. In recent years, when he looked around the Valley for a facility to that could meet the needs of his technology-driven business, Alcantar found the ideal landing spot in Mission.
The 55,000-square-foot Mission Economic Development Corp. facility has all of the high-end technological amenities that Alcantar’s business requires. The facility and its Center for Education and Economic Development also has a building culture that inspires and nurtures entrepreneurs like Alcantar and a neighboring cluster of businesses in the MEDC facility.
“There’s a camaraderie of being an entrepreneur in this building,” said Alcantar, a San Juan native who owns the Cultura Agency. “Everyone is here to hustle, and the interaction here has been amazing.”
The row of entrepreneurs at the CEED wing of the facility is one of many improvements the MEDC has seen since moving into the spacious building in 2016 after its renovation from its former life as a K-Mart. Now located on Bryan Road near downtown Mission, the MEDC has been able to expand two of its signature programs – Ruby Red Ventures and Code The Town – and add new programs.
One of those programs is Web of Women, which provides internet and soft skills training for women. The MEDC also launched the Expert-In-Residence program to give creative professionals a boost by connecting them to experts in science, technology and engineering, among other fields. The larger facility has also enabled MEDC to host meetings and events in its auditorium and conference rooms. A recent social media summit drew 115 participants.
All of these elements point to promoting entrepreneurship in Mission and supporting creative business ventures.
“We’re trying to create that ecosystem of innovative entrepreneurs here at the CEED in bringing in businesses that fit that model, and will work together,” said Teclo Garcia, the MEDC’s director of strategic partnerships and program development. “Alex Meade, the CEO, and the staff develop a relationship with every single tenant in determining what they need to succeed.”
Alcantar describes the MEDC’s support as being “second to none” in terms of technological assistance and providing connections to the community. Another tenant, Vanessa Sarabia of Top Branding TV, uses the creative culture of CEED as a teaching tool to her students, who are pursuing careers in the multimedia world.
“We all have something in common in that we operate in the creative world,” Sarabia said. “I like my students to come here and be inspired.”
Creativity and inspiration were provided recently at an MEDC event. Garcia hosted an evening conference featuring three of Mission’s top entrepreneurs who own and operate small businesses in Mission. They gave participants their insights and best practices in starting a business and keeping it running with excellent customer service and oversight of revenues and expenses in following a business plan.
Each of the entrepreneurs benefitted from going through the MEDC’s Ruby Red Ventures. The program is an MEDC mainstay and provides training in developing a sound business plan and how to present their ventures in seeking capital to launch a business. A panel of judges with backgrounds in business assesses the plans and entries and awards grants to the winners.
“We need to begin removing some barriers and making capital more accessible to fuel startup growth,” said Meade in a statement from his office. “If we don’t support our aspiring entrepreneurs, who will?”