BY Amanda A. Taylor

Representatives from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Weslaco Economic Development Corporation, the U.S. Economic Development Administration-Southwest Region, the City of Weslaco, the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, and Megamorphosis Architecture, came together Wednesday for a beam signing ceremony to launch the collaborative Center for Innovation & Commercialization, or CIC.

The new CIC building, to be administered jointly by UTRGV and the Weslaco EDC, will serve the Valley as a regional entrepreneurial hub and catalyst for economic growth with the goal of helping accelerate the success of companies and scalable enterprises that have potential to reach national and international markets. The building is located on South Kansas Avenue, on property owned by the City of Weslaco.

Steven Valdez, director of Weslaco EDC, said the ceremony was meant to recognize the hard work and dedication of all partners involved in the conception and construction of the more than 20,000-square-foot building.

“The next time you will be here will be the grand opening of this building as a finished project,” Valdez told attendees.

Representatives in hard hats signed the beam, which will be used in the framework of the building as construction continues.

Weslaco Mayor David Suarez said the space is the first of its kind for the City of Weslaco and the Rio Grande Valley.

“This partnership with UTRGV will bring together academics and entrepreneurships,” Suarez said. “We’re excited about the energy that will fill this space and the innovation that will be fostered here.”

The state-of-the-art facility will feature desk spaces, conference rooms, classrooms, access to 3D printers, 3D scanners, prototype tools, accessibility to mentors and coaches, and professional assistance like accounting, legal and marketing services.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said the City of Weslaco has been “ a great team player” in the three years or so since inception.

“The more we thought about the appropriate use of this facility, the more the ideas of entrepreneurship formed,” Bailey said. “It’s about helping people start businesses and having ideas come to fruition.”

Two of UTRGV’s core priorities are expanding educational opportunity and fostering community engagement, and in keeping with those goals, the CIC building will become the new home of the UTRGV Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship (VCOBE)’s PhD program.

“This PhD program is moving to Weslaco, so we’ll have about 50 PhD students upstairs while working with startup companies and the public downstairs,” said Laurie G. Simmons, the CIC manager. “We aim to develop the next group of young entrepreneurs and innovators to encourage company growth in the Valley. That way we create not just jobs, but enterprises and companies that can hire these people who are leaving for work outside of the Valley.”

The ceremony was held in memoriam of the late Meg Jorn, an architect and president of Megamorphosis Architecture & Interior Design, whose company spearheaded the CIC’s furniture plans.

“We are blessed that Meg Jorn held such a significant role in this event and we have a special hard hat that we plan to deliver to her family,” Valdez said. “We thank her for all her dedication and collaboration in this project.”