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Tag Archives: brownsville chamber of commerce

May 2016 Member Spotlight: Lower Valley Dental Associates

lower valley dental associates logo

Company Name: Lower Valley Dental Associates

Category: Dental

Date joined: February 2009

Quality and personalized dental care is what Lower Valley Dental Associates aims to provide to each patient. This family business was started by Brownsville native Claudia E. Rodriguez, DDS, and her husband Jordan Patrick Pirtle, DDS, in 2007. At the time, the closest dentist providing sedation and general anesthesia services for dental procedures was located in Harlingen. Today, their dental practice has grown to three doctors and 19 staff members, including Dr. Melissa Uriegas.

The Lower Valley Dental Associates team takes pride in being part of the Brownsville and Rio Grande Valley community. Their services include dental care for children, adults, and special needs patients, in both office and hospital settings.

“Our practice is a family run and operated organization. This is not a corporate office with

a pre-planned business model. We are community members that are trying to do right by our fellow community members based on the education we have received from our higher learning

institutions.” Claudia E. Rodriguez, DDS, said. “We are proud to live in Brownsville and want to do our part to educate and help our neighbors.”


Contact information:

Lower Valley Dental Associates

4920 N. Expressway 77, Suite E

Brownsville, TX 78526

(956) 350-0059

Chairwoman’s Message – March 2016

Olga Gonzalez

Greetings –

The nineteenth century developers of Brownsville gave us a truly unique and beautiful city, combining the Mexican-Spanish Colonial architectural traditions with formal and folk buildings. This rich blending of history and functionality, the past and the future, is a kind of picture of who we are. Our city, our valley is blessed with a wonderfully optimistic, industrious and warm community of people, and Brownsville Chamber of Commerce continues to be an invaluable point of meeting for us. I’m so grateful you’re a part of it.

Last week the Chamber hosted the first of the 2016 Women in Leadership Speakers Series, presented by Valley Regional Medical Center. Our very special guests were Jamie and Patsy Silva Schanbaum. Jamie’s story of overcoming adversity is truly inspirational. After losing her legs and fingers 8 years ago to meningococcal septicemia, she founded The JAMIE Group to raise awareness and educate the public about this preventable disease. In 2009, Jamie helped to pass Senate Bill 819, the Jamie Schanbaum Act, requiring meningitis vaccinations for all college students in Texas.

I encourage you save the date for the next powerful presentation of the Women in Leadership Speakers Series, featuring Gloria Campos, scheduled for June 29, 2016, from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM at the Historic Alonso Building.

ADB-Facebook1nother great event that you will not want to miss is ¡Despierta Brownsville!; an early morning opportunity to chat about the great things going on in Brownsville. Join us from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., on April 13, at The Historic Alonso Building, 510 E. Saint Charles Street. The topic of the presentation will be the Nielsen Border Study insights, presented by the Brownsville Partners that funded the study.

One more advance notice for later in the year: we are honored to have been selected as one of only ten partners across the state to host a 2016 Governor’s Small Business Forum. Plan to be with us on October 27, 2016, at the Brownsville Event Center. From our Press Release: “These forums are designed to give entrepreneurs and small businesses valuable tools, skills, and knowledge needed to thrive in today’s fast-paced economy. The event will feature a wide range of instructive seminars and expert speakers offering vital information on both public and private resources. There will also be a special focus on offering information for women and veteran entrepreneurs.”

Finally, we are continuing to grow and it’s been our pleasure to welcome 18 new members in January and 11 in February. It’s great to have each one with us, and we encourage you to get involved and make the most of all the benefits that come with being part of our dynamic Chamber. Did you know that our Chamber University program includes more than 40 professional programs and workshops throughout the year focused on helping business owners and nonprofit organizations grow and prosper their organizations? Get more information and register online.

We are better together!

Olga Gonzalez
Chairwoman of the Board

Vice President – Professional & Executive Banker, BBVA Compass

President’s Message – January 2016

HRBCC-42Greetings! It’s hard to believe that February is just around the corner—but it is. As the largest, pro-business, member-centric organization, we represent the interests of 873 businesses. Our members range from “Mom-and-Pop” shops, manufacturers, and nonprofits that create the safety net that improves our quality of life, to hospitals and health care organizations that heal and care for our loved ones. While all of them may have different business needs, they all share on one thing—they count on the Chamber to be their voice and their greatest advocate for economic growth opportunities. Since I accepted the role as the President/CEO in June, the board of directors, staff, and I have spent time meeting with members and listening to their needs. We hear you loud and clear! You want a return on your investment. That’s what we aim to do.

Over the next few months, we will re-launch events such as speed networking, the business-to- botana expo, and other new innovative programs and events. Also, we have expanded our list of collaborative partners to offer more professional development activities. Through Chamber University, we offer over 40 professional programs and workshops focused on helping business owners and nonprofit organizations grow and prosper their businesses and organizations. We invite you to take advantage of your membership by attending member orientation events, known as Chamber Connect. These events will help you learn how to enhance your membership directory and build your online presence, how to get involved and connected, and how to get access to key experts in areas such as marketing, social media, and human resources. Of course, everyone loves a great networking social, so we are pleased to partner with local corporations to bring you seasonal favorites such as the Charro Days Mixer and the Freedom Mixer in July.

There are numerous ways to get involved and stay connected. Join a committee! The Bienvenidos Committee welcomes new businesses to our city, our Governmental Affairs Committee keeps us connected with our state and federal legislators, and the International Trade and Logistics Committee works to improve trade relations and economic opportunities. The Transportation Committee advocates for traffic and mobility improvements, while the Small Business Development Committee keeps our members engaged by offering programs and events focused on using our “voice and influence” to leverage our collective resources to create a vibrant and sustainable local economy. If you want the Chamber to truly work for you—we invite you to get involved, increase your network of support, expand your expertise, and become a part of growing movement to make our business community more prosperous.

¡Adelante! Together—We are the Chamber!

Melinda Rodriguez

Chairwoman’s Message – Dec. 2015

Olga GonzalezGreetings –

‘Tis the season! Brownsville loves the holidays, and for many of our members it’s the busiest time of the year. I hope it’s turning out to be a season that will exceed your expectations, and that you’ll also find some time to enjoy with those you love.

The leadership gavel was handed to me as the new Chair of our Board of Directors on December 3rd at our Annual Leadership Luncheon. It’s an honor for me to serve the Chamber in this way, and let me take a moment on behalf of us all to thank our outgoing Chairman, Humphrey G. Thomas, for all his hard work over the past year. In addition to the regular duties of a Chairman, he ably led us through a time of transition and the appointment of a new CEO. Thank you, Humphrey.

We were honored to have as keynote speaker for our Leadership Luncheon, the Honorable Carlos H. Cascos, Texas Secretary of State. Mr. Cascos gave an inspiring talk about economic development in Brownsville.

On October 13th, in collaboration with the Port of Brownsville, the Chamber hosted a Public Affairs Luncheon at the Events Center. 150 members turned out to hear a panel presenting information on “LNG in the Rio Grande Valley”; the panel was made up of executives from the three proposed LNG companies: Annova LNG, Rio Grande LNG, and Texas LNG. If you weren’t able to attend, a number of questions were asked and you will find the panel members’ answers published in this e-Newsletter.

Then, on November 19th, we celebrated the beginning of a new chapter in the Chamber’s history with the Grand Re-opening of our beautifully modernized facility. State Representative Eddie Lucio III presented a resolution praising the chamber for its “commitment to the prosperity and vitality of the community” and “lasting, positive impact in the lives of area residents.”

Those who took a tour at the open house saw that it’s an impressive building for our staff to work and welcome the community in, but as our president and CEO, Melinda Rodriguez, has said, this much needed renovation was done “with the members we serve in mind.”

Speaking of our membership, it was our great pleasure to welcome 16 new members during October and November. Let me take this opportunity to again welcome them; it’s great to be part of such a vibrant and growing Chamber.

Looking ahead to a couple of upcoming events:

In the new year, we are partnering with “All In” Brownsville to host a State of Education Luncheon. You might recall that this was previously planned for November, but had to be postponed. It will now take place at the Ambassador Event Center from 11:30am to 1:30pm on Tuesday, January 5th. The United Way of Southern Cameron County will be releasing their 2016 Indicator Report on Education and Human Capital. Also, a featured panel will include representatives from Brownsville Independent School District, Harmony Science Academy, IDEA Public Schools, Saint Joseph Academy, South Texas Independent School District, Texas Southmost College, and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

And finally, mark your calendar now for the Business to Botana Expo. This is a great annual event that attracts more than 100 booth vendors and 1,000 attendees.

There are many more great things ahead in 2016. I look forward to meeting many of you, and continuing to explore ways that we can all strengthen each other as part of this great Chamber.

We are better together!

Olga Gonzalez
Chairwoman of the Board

Vice President, Rio Bank

November 2015 Member Spotlight: Country Casuals

Nov. Spotlight Image




Company Name: Country Casuals, Inc.

Business Categories: Apparel and Retail

Date Joined: January 1987

Products: Ladies’ clothing, accessories and gifts; baby clothing and accessories.

Country Casuals is a family-owned and operated clothing and accessories boutique. Their mission is to “always provide fine goods and exceptional service to the residents of Brownsville and Matamoros.”

The Gelfer family first started this retail business in 1959 in downtown Brownsville. David and Jayme Gelfer initially operated a leased shoe and accessories department at the Popular and later Darcy’s. Over the years, they faced many challenges, such as the collapse of the roof. Despite such challenges, they remained undefeated and moved forward and opened Country Casuals in 1967. Known for brand name women’s clothing, jewelry, and accessories, the full line boutique maintains generations of loyal customers. The store is located at The Corner Shopping Center on Boca Chica Boulevard.

At present, David and Jayme continue to be very involved in the business. Their daughter Robin Pierce and her husband Mike Piece oversee the store’s day-to-day operations. Robin is the primary store buyer and Mike the president of Country Casuals, who also manages leasing of retail space for The Corner Shopping Center.

Country Casuals has been a member of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce for 30 years. Although this retail business has gone through the challenges of the Mexican peso devaluation, it continues to thrive thanks to its outstanding customer service, loyal customers and trendy merchandise. The store offers exclusive ladies’ clothing, accessories and gifts; as well as a baby clothing and accessories.

Contact information:

Country Casuals, Inc.

2200 Boca Chica Blvd., Brownsville, TX 78521

P: (956) 546-3771


Chairman’s Message – August 2015


Greetings –

The Texas Historical Plaques that are to be found along the Brownsville Heritage Trail tell the story of our city’s rich history. The beautiful old buildings that date back as far as the 1850’s are a testimony to an enterprising past; a past that we can be proud of.

It’s exciting to know, however, that this industrious spirit is not just an echo of yesteryear, but it is a vital part of who we are today. The Chamber is thriving because our business community is still thriving. Our members are a special kind of people, and it’s truly an honor to serve each and every one of you.

On August 14th, the Chamber teamed up with Walmart to present the Legislative Update Luncheon, featuring Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. and State Representative Eddie Lucio III.  Representative Rene O. Oliveira had also been announced, but was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances. A member of his staff was with us, though, and presented remarks on Mr. Oliveira’s behalf.

The event attracted more than 240 people to the Rancho Viejo Resort & Country Club Casa Grande Conference Center, to hear our speakers give an informative overview of the 84th legislative session. We appreciate such strong support from our members, friends, and particularly our sponsors and the legislators who made their time available for us.

Coming up:

Starting on September 15th, we are very excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide an outstanding opportunity for women – the Women Entrepreneurs’ Small Business Boot Camp. Apply now to be part of this excellent training series, and to be inspired by real stories of successful women entrepreneurs. (Check out the “Top 10 Reasons to Enlist” on our blog).

The boot camp includes 5 full-day sessions held on a monthly basis, and focusing on core competencies that are essential to the success and survival of a small business. The application deadline is September 1st, and space is limited so let me urge you to act quickly. At just $100 for all the sessions, it’s an excellent value that will ensure it fills up fast.

Then, on Tuesday, October 13th, we are partnering with the Port of Brownsville to host a panel discussion on The LNG Industry in the Rio Grande Valley. There is a lot of interest about the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas distribution terminal in the Port, and we want to provide all our members with the latest information. We plan to have executives from all 3 of the proposed LNG companies on the panel. You are warmly invited to attend from 11:00am to 1:00pm at the Brownsville Events Center.

Finally, in November we are collaborating with the United Way of Southern Cameron County and “All In” Brownsville to host a State of Education Luncheon. The purpose is to engage and inspire business leaders to take an active role in improving education in Brownsville. Education will ultimately determine Brownsville’s economic future, impacting our ability to stay competitive in a global market. We can ensure the success of our students by helping to prepare them for high school, college and the workplace. The date, venue and final details for this luncheon will be finalized very shortly, so watch our calendar of events for more information.

As always, I want to say thank you for all your continued support. The Chamber is all of us co-operating for the development and prosperity of our area.

We are better together!

Humphrey G. Thomas, CDFA, AAMS Chairman of the Board HG Thomas Wealth Management


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