Brownsville Chamber of Commerce Boosts Community Growth Amid Pandemic
The last two years have certainly put a spotlight on our community and how we are stronger together. The pandemic has impacted all of us as we have had to adjust and pivot sharply. Our community has seen it in the determination of small businesses that have kept their doors open and their employees on payroll, and we have seen it in the tireless dedication of essential workers who have kept daily life running for all of us. The pandemic may have changed so many things about our lives, but it has not changed the value the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce brings to our community.
At the start of the Pandemic, the Chamber partnered with the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation to establish the COVID-19 Rapid Response Small Business Assistance Program. The program informed small businesses in Brownsville about community lending resources and the U.S. Small Business Administration's COVID-19 funding, and assisted them in applying for those programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan, Express Bridge Loans, and SBA Debt Relief program.
The COVID-19 Rapid Response Small Business Assistance Program assisted over 900 local businesses. In conjunction with one-on-one assistance, the Chamber conducted over 60 educational resource webinars in partnership with the City of Brownsville, Texas Restaurant Association, Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Education Agency, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other organizations. These educational resource webinars assisted over 24,000 individuals in our community.
The pandemic also exposed our community's challenge in access to broadband internet. In 2020, the Chamber partnered with the City of Brownsville, Brownsville Independent School District, Texas Southmost College, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, Brownsville Navigation District and the Brownsville Public Utilities Board to launch the Community Broadband Survey. The purpose of this campaign was to help bring faster internet and better internet access to our community.
In April 2021, the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce and the City of Brownsville partnered to bring the Connect BTX Committee to the business community. Connect BTX advances digital equality and economic growth through strategic partnerships that promote a thriving and digitally empowered community.
Connect BTX will create new educational, job training and employment opportunities for local residents. But we must also support local, talented entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses or start new businesses in our community. That's why for over twenty years, the Chamber and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Small Business Development Center (UTRGV SBDC) have partnered to promote business-training and advisory services to improve the success of local businesses. The Chamber has an in-house business counselor from the UTRGV SBDC assisting local business owners with free and confidential one-on-one business counseling.
The Chamber has also partnered with the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the City of Brownsville to develop the eBridge Center for Business & Commercialization. The eBridge Center will be a collaborative effort to promote economic development in the area through small business development initiatives, entrepreneurship and research and development.
Whatever challenges may lie ahead, the Chamber will work with our partners to support the community and provide the resources for small businesses in Brownsville to succeed and grow. Our volunteers and staff are here to assist you. To learn more about the programs mentioned above and other efforts or to become involved with the Chamber, please visit our website at brownsvillechamber.com, or call (956) 542-4341.
Richard Abete is board chair of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce and senior vice president in the Commercial Banking Department at IBC Bank.