Mission EDC holds first ever Civic Innovation Summit

Source: Progress Times on March 2, 2018

Gathering from all over the Rio Grande Valley, people seemed to enjoy the conversation, connections and coffee.

Last Thursday, the Mission Economic Development Corporation held its first ever Civic Innovation Summit, hosting speakers, entrepreneurs, and creators from all over the United States. The all-day event is also the first of its kind in the Valley.

The summit was held at the Center for Education and Economic Development (CEED) building. Alex Meade, Mission EDC’s President and Chief Executive Officer, kicked off the event with a brief introduction of what was to come.

“Innovation is typically something that people think happens in large communities and only large communities,” Meade said. “But the fact is that it’s happening everywhere throughout this country, large or small. And sometimes, the innovation is taking place more often in smaller communities because we’re having to learn how to do more with less.”

Meade said that doing more with less comes with improvising and coming up with alternative solutions for the problems that larger communities sometimes take for granted.

“The Valley has always been known as an area with low income, low education, so therefore the companies that we recruited, the things that we’ve done in the Valley have always been things that we can do with our hands,” Meade said. “We’ve never been looked at as a community or as a region that can work with our minds. The Valley is growing, and now we’re starting to see more innovation take place in communities like ours.”

Meade used the CEED building as an example of how the RGV has been changing. The building, newly renovated, used to be a K-Mart, then a Converse facility, and then a ropa usada warehouse. Now, he says the EDC is there to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship.

“For us to be having these discussions, I think it allows us to prove that we are an innovative community,” Meade said. “Despite the fact that we’ve had all the odds against us, the region is very innovative.”

Cristina Garza, the Mission EDC Program Director, organized the event with help from Cityflag, a company based in San Antonio that is part of the EDC’s current Expert in Residence Program. The two pooled their resources and contacts in order to coordinate the summit.

Alberto Altamirano, the CEO and co-founder of Cityflag, spoke about the difficulty of getting people excited about civic innovation.

“Sometimes it’s challenging to talk about civic engagement or civic innovation in Texas, because some people get it and some people don’t,” Altamirano said. “So the challenge is there, but you’ve got to push those boundaries.”

Garza said that the event took about three months to plan everything, and the result was due to all the hard work everyone involved put into it. The event sold out, with a few more people showing up than expected, allowing for a cool 100 to 150 total people in attendance.

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