Texas Border Business
By Roberto Hugo González
In the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) has quietly spearheaded a series of groundbreaking efforts. These endeavors have enjoyed tremendous success in advancing community development and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit that thrives in this unique corner of Texas.
The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) is at the core of these initiatives, a critical resource dedicated to providing entrepreneurial development services and training programs to service members, veterans, and military spouses interested in launching or growing a small business. UTRGV’s VBOC plays a vital role in assisting veterans during their transition from military service to entrepreneurship, ensuring they are well informed about the available resources and support tailored to their specific needs.
Veronica Gonzales, Senior Vice President for Government and Community Relations at UTRGV, and Ron Garza, Associate Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development, are the driving forces behind these visionary initiatives. Their commitment to supporting veterans and promoting economic growth is evident in their leadership of the VBOC.
The Veterans Business Outreach Center, much like the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), serves as a valuable hub for aspiring entrepreneurs. However, it distinguishes itself by focusing on veterans and their unique challenges and opportunities. For veterans transitioning out of service and aspiring to start a business, the VBOC provides a lifeline, offering guidance and access to resources they might not be aware of otherwise.
Marcos Villagran, who oversees the VBOC, goes the extra mile by traveling to different military bases, working directly with veterans embarking on their entrepreneurial journeys. This outreach effort ensures that veterans across the region can access the support they need, regardless of location.
UTRGV’s commitment to its veterans goes beyond business development. The university offers training programs to enhance veterans’ existing skills, helping them bridge the gap between military service and civilian employment. These programs empower veterans to make a seamless transition into the world of entrepreneurship or any other career path they choose to pursue.
UTRGV serves as a vital connector within the community, linking individuals and organizations with the services, products, advisement, and training required to propel them to the next level of success. Whether veterans seek advice on starting a business, accessing capital, or receiving specialized training, the VBOC is a dependable resource.
The demand for VBOC services remains steady, which is proof of its significant impact on veterans in the region. The VBOC, like other centers at UTRGV, operates under strict accountability measures. It must meet specific metrics, including job creation and capital infusion, to continue receiving state and federal funding. These metrics ensure that these essential resources remain available to those who need them.
While some services within UTRGV’s network, such as the Data and Information System Center, require nominal fees for their offerings, many are entirely free. The commitment to accessibility and affordability underscores UTRGV’s dedication to serving the community’s diverse needs.
UTRGV’s commitment to education and skill development extends beyond the VBOC. The university recently announced a significant investment in a program called Coursera Career Academy. In partnership with LinkedIn and other industry giants, this program will offer free professional certificates to students and alumni. These certificates, endorsed by companies like Google, IBM, and Microsoft, will prepare individuals to meet the demands of today’s job market. UTRGV’s participation in this program exemplifies its dedication to empowering its community with valuable skills and knowledge.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley offers valuable support for veterans, entrepreneurs, and anyone seeking to enhance their skills and career prospects. Through visionary leadership, dedication, and a commitment to accessibility, UTRGV continues to transform lives and bolster the region’s economic vitality.