Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Summer At CEED: Groundwork for Something Great

This Summer, which I realize is still ongoing here in Mission with our subtropical weather, I spent my days at the new Center for Education and Economic Development. It is otherwise known as CEED. I have not asked if the name is a play on words. However, if CEED is meant to sound like SEED, then it is very apropos. This building will be the beginning of what can grow into a solid structure that can branch the South Texas economy in a new direction. 

CEED is the product of the Mission Economic Development Corporation with the support of the City of Mission and a host of other agencies. There is a lot invested in this project. There are a lot of eyes on the project. Let me share all that is a part of and all that rides on this great experiment within the Mission City Limits. 

What CEED Is

At its most basic, CEED is similar to a business incubator and a coworking space. The key difference is that CEED is a bit more selective on what types of businesses can lease office space. In order to maximize the benefit of the building, there needs to be a variety of small businesses that complement each other rather than there being a mishmash of unrelated businesses. To give you an idea of what sorts of businesses you may find, use the STEAM acronym, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. But, you also have to throw in an extra E, which would have thrown off the acronym, for Entrepreneurship. This last one is important because Entrepreneurship is a completely different track from being job ready. The acronym is, therefore, E-STEAM. 

What CEED Will Do

Alex Meade, the CEO of the MEDC, explains that most cities expend a lot of time and energy in attracting manufacturing businesses to take advantage of the maquiladoras across the border. Our neighboring cities have had mixed success in bringing companies down to open up plants on both sides of the border. This is great for jobs while the companies are here. However, eventually some of these pack up and leave, which results in a workforce that is trained to do a job that is no longer available. 

What the Mission EDC aims to do differently is to create a workforce that is not dependent on major companies setting up shop here. If you can learn programming, web design, video production, graphic design, networking, robotics, or any number of skills that are easily outsourced or contracted, then our workforce is no longer at the mercy of local economics. Many of these jobs can be contracted locally or remotely around the world. Many of these skills only require a laptop and an internet connection to be in business. 

So, it is to that end that CEED wants to attract the best and brightest in Mission and the surrounding communities with a shared work space that will promote learning, networking, and collaboration. This cannot be done entirely with tenants in the building. CEED will also establish a membership program, which is similar to a gym membership in which you pay a monthly fee for access to the facilities. Except that in this case, access includes use of a variety of desks and work areas in open common spaces separate from the tenants. 

What is going on at CEED?

For the moment, the MEDC is making preparations for the Grand Opening of the building. But, they already have some action thanks to Sylvan Learning and Teach for America. In addition, CEED has hosted events for the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce and CodeRGV

Speaking of CodeRGV, next week is that start of an intensive 12-week training for a few select students to learn Full Stack Web Development. It is a joint program with Code RGV, MEDC, and the Texas Workforce Commission. The end result of this training is that the graduates will be certified and hireable for a job with a target salary of at least $50,000. 

In addition, MEDC has just hired a Program Director, Cristina Garza, to coordinate all E-STEAM programs such as Code the Town, Enginuity, and Ruby Red Ventures. All of the programs that MEDC had going prior to opening CEED, will continue through CEED.

There are a great number of ideas in the works at CEED that need more development. Suffice it to say that if you have an idea for a business, a product, a website, software, or project, CEED will be your first destination. This is where you will find the talent that can help you develop your ideas into something real. 

How Can I Be a Part of CEED?

Unfortunately, CEED is not yet open for businesses. Yes, there is some business happening there; but, it's slowly ramping up. Keep a watch for an announcement of the Grand Opening. The team at CEED is still working on the details inherent with running a multi-tenant and membership venue.

I had a great Summer leading the installation of the technology at CEED. That's another story. Unfortunately, it's the type of tech that is awesome behind the scenes, but seems simple on the surface. More importantly, I had the good fortune to be around the MEDC team frequently to hear about all the ground breaking plans in store. 

You will be able to tell if the team at the MEDC was successful when other cities start to build their own CEED buildings. You will be able to judge their success when Mission becomes synonymous with innovation in the RGV. You'll know they have hit a home run when agencies start knocking on their door to fund projects that are making a difference. You'll know CEED is a success when your son or daughter can get a $50K job in technology before finishing college. You'll know the project is a success when million dollar business after million dollar business credits their success to their start at CEED. 

Good things are coming to Mission. You definitely want to be a part of this. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What A Storm

We had quite a light show and hail last night. There was some destruction, but not like other times. Electric service was affected in some areas. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Visit to Ice House

Today I visited Ice House, which is a family owned business in Mission. Ice House has been around for years; but like many things, I never made the time to stop by and check it out, even if it's right there. The Statue of Liberty probably has the same issue with resident New Yorkers.

Today, being my birthday, I went out with my Mother, whose birthday was yesterday, to have a beer. She asked where we should go. We've gone to some other places in the past; but, being a lazy summer, it seemed better to go somewhere nearby. Ice House is just a few blocks away.

I suggested we check out the Ice House. I had known from others that the Ice House mostly caters to older people, especially during Winter Texan season. But, I think this is inaccurate.

As we entered the bar, we did see that there were several older people, likely retirees around the place. But, Ice House is more than that to me in the sense that it is reminiscent of some of the bars up in Wisconsin and pubs in the UK. You would feel perfectly fine taking your family to a pub. It's a place to have drinks, eat something, and socialize.

Bars in the RGV are more suited to getting plastered and making Neanderthalish attempts at attracting mates. The Ice House, on the other hand, is much calmer and friendlier. Given the older customer base, all that pretense of the youth is long gone. Sometimes you want to sit down and have a beer in peace.

My mother liked the place. I don't think it's half bad. I would certainly go back again. I don't know that I would take my family, although it would be a suitable establishment. The establishment accommodates smoking, which could be problematic for my young ones. This could be easily solved by sitting in the outdoors area; but, in 103 degree weather, that's unlikely.

In any case, I can see the appeal of Ice House for our Winter Texan population. The establishment is very reminiscent of bars up north. In addition, they don't have to deal with young trouble makers.

I think I will visit again.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Business Spotlight: Abel Riojas Photography

If you are looking for professional family and commercial photography in Mission, Texas, then be sure to visit Abel Riojas Photography. Abel Riojas had years of commercial photography and video experience before opening up his own studio.

Abel Riojas focuses on quality rather than churning out work in volume. There are plenty of photographers who will do countless glamour shots at discounted rates; but, they do not achieve the same degree of quality and composition that Abel can achieve. There is a big difference between taking technically correct photos and taking fabulous photos. Abel Riojas manages to hit both targets. The result is sharp images that are also emotionally moving.

Emotional impact is precisely why Abel Riojas recommends that professionals should have current head shots. Normally, you would have a head shot if you were a model or actor. However, according to Abel, customers do business with you, not your business. Your image is extremely important, especially if you are going to put it on your website, business card, or other marketing material. He emphasizes that a great head shot can go a long way towards building trust with your customers.

In addition to amazing portraits, Abel Riojas has a growing business in drone photography. Although initially reluctant to branch off from portrait photography, which he does best, his family convinced him to give drones a try. Abel purchased his first drone and taught himself how to operate it.

Soon after, word spread of his new drone photography service. Realtors were the first to jump at the opportunity to hire Abel for site surveys and aerial shots of properties. Prior to Abel's drone, the Realtors would have had to hire a plane and a photographer willing to dangle out the side of an open plane door to take the photo. Hiring Abel to do drone photography is less costly, is faster, and provides a better image of the property being surveyed.

You can visit Abel Riojas Photraphy online at (you should definitely visit the site), or in person at 2715 E Griffin Parkway in Mission, Texas. You could call Abel Riojas at 956-624-4042 to inquire more about his services. Be sure to mention when he asks how you found out about his work.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Last Week's Buenas Tardes Luncheon

Last Wednesday, I made the time to head over to the +The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce monthly Buenas Tardes Luncheon at the Cimarron Country Club. The guest speakers at the luncheon were the school superintendents of +Mission CISD+La Joya ISD, and +Sharyland ISD. I'm late writing about it because. . ., nevermind that.

You would expect such an event to by your typical stuffy event composed of people in suits and controlled speeches meant to not offend anybody or cause controversy. I must say that the event was pleasantly surprising, entertaining even.

The panel consisted of, all Doctors by the way, Ricardo Lopez (Mission CISD), Alda Benavides (La Joya ISD, and brand spanking new Robert O'Connor (Sharyland ISD).

They were very open to sharing their views on what the districts face in the coming year. Dr. Benavides was very candid in talking about how competition with charter schools has been a good thing for public schools, requiring them to do a better job of educating students. Her view is that charter school competition is an opportunity to improve rather than a threat to public education.

Dr. Lopez was frank about sharing some of the budgetary challenges that schools face when the legislature sets money aside, but then adds many extra unfunded requirements while cutting budgets elsewhere.

Dr. O'Connor is the new kid on the block. He stated that he doesn't have statistics to offer, we'll have to wait until next year. However, he did share that his focus this year will be building his team, which is understandable. There have been some politica going on over at Sharyland ISD in recent years, which tends to inhibit teamwork. Best of luck.

The only other thing of note is that Alex Meade of the Mission Economic Development Corporation shared the success of their Code the Town initiative geared towards fostering an environment for students to learn how to program. Many of the high paying jobs of the future will consist of software development for all manner of uses from websites, robotics, corporate networks, to gaming. Mission EDC is getting statewide and national recognition for the effort, which is unlikely for a small town such as ours.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Bats in Mission, Texas

The other night while walking at dusk around Oblate Park in Mission, I saw some fluttering up above. I thought perhaps it was a bird. However, as the creature's silhouette passed by a lighter backdrop, I saw that it was a bat.

Since, these aren't Medieval times, I was a little fascinated and amused to see bats fluttering around in circles. Presumably, they are catching insects. With all the rains these past few weeks, the mosquitoes and other bugs are abundant. Of course, that means a feast for bats.

The only other place I have seen bats in Mission is at the Rio Grande Valley Bentsen State Park. During a Creatures of the Night tour, the park Rangers took our group up to a skywalk that oversees the trees. While up there, the Rangers had a device that could make the bat ultrasonic clicks audible to us. The Rangers would also shine a light on the bats for us to see.

Out in the wild, it is not too difficult to imagine that the bats may find somewhere to roost, if that's the proper word. However, within the Mission city limits, I have to wonder where these bats might be staying? It's possible they sleep in somebody's shed or attic. I would hate to be the person who discovers bats in their residence, complete with bat droppings.

Bats are a mixed blessing, one supposes. On the one hand, they help us keep the insect population under control. On the other hand, they aren't exactly the type of creature you want nesting around you.

Be sure to visit Oblate Park or Bentsen Park if you want to see bats fluttering around.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Hazy Days of Mission, Texas

Driving home one day, I was struck by how hazy the air is on hot and humid days. It gets like this especially with all the rain that we have been getting. It is also pleasing to see everything green.