Mission, Texas Brain

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.