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In 1991, after spending 10 years as an Advertising Manager for daily newspapers, magazines and multi-media conglomerates nationwide, Darlene K. Gregory started her own company in Corpus Christi, Texas. EMW Productions, LLC, dba East Meets West Productions and East Meets West Financial Management grew from consulting and hosting local community events such as Career Fair, Heroes For Hire, U.S. Navy Blue Angels Air Show, and many others for local organizations to becoming a ‘one stop’ shop for businesses needing marketing and design expertise across many platforms.
The company offers full service advertising, marketing, PR and business consulting services, specializing in international medical, industrial and institutional accounts. In addition, the company designs business plans, and places commercial loans for small business with investors, banks, REITs and hedge funds. The team of 9 full time employees and a dozen experts in a variety of fields on a contractual basis also designs and hosts web sites, internet marketing campaigns, custom databases, custom Android applications, and manages and hosts major conferences, symposiums and events for clients such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Navy, and The Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas, among many others.
EMW Productions received a small SBAExpress loan in May 2012 to get a jump start on financing and has since grown and expanded services and in turn sales revenue. Ms. Gregory has also conducted many seminars for SBA‘s resource partner- Del Mar College Small Business Development Center to help educate local small business owners. Darlene Gregory received SBA’s Minority Small Business Champion of the Year award in 2007 and serves on the SBA’s Corpus Christi Branch Office’s Small Business Week nomination committee.
EMW Productions is the proud recipient of many ADDY awards and International Film Festival Award for Industrial Film for its client, FMC/Moorco. Additionally, Darlene has won Editor and Publisher Magazine’s award for Best Promotion and the International Association of Newspaper and Marketing Executives Award for Best Publication. The company also won several national and regional Public Relations Society of America awards for the Corpus Christi Police Department’s Save Our Streets campaign in 2010.
Three of EMW Productions clients have won SBA Small Business Week awards. These include Bradley’s Hermetics - Small Business Exporter of the Year and CC Disposal Service - Jeffrey E. Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year, both in 2010. Ms. Gregory also nominated Gainco, Inc – which was named the 2011 SBA’s Small Business Person of the Year for the Lower Rio Grande Valley District.
She is a frequent keynote speaker for organizations nationwide, most recently, Meeting Planners International and Choice Hotels Owner’s Group, on such topics as Increasing Attendance at Your Scientific Conference and Marketing to the Eagle Ford Shale.
Darlene is Chairman of the Uptown Neighborhood Initiative, and serves on the City of Corpus Christi’s Central Business District Planning Committee and the Brownfields Assessment Committee.
David Garza served in the National Guard in Iraq in 2010 and also a former employee of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office in Edinburg, Texas. In July 2012, he and his wife Noelia opened their own business located at 205 E. Business 83, Ste. B in Weslaco, Texas, with the help of the local University of Texas-Pan American Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC). Mid Valley Archery, an archery instruction and recreation business has become a big hit with local community ‘kids’ market. Garza credits the quick interest based on the newest and most popular blockbuster movie hits such as Brave and the Hunger Games, and also on the 2012 Olympics archery sport fanatics. Mr. Garza received counseling and mentorship from VBOC – a U.S. Small Business Administration resource partner located in Edinburg, TX. He received start-up counseling as well as assistance in preparing a business plan. He was able to finance his start-up through his own personal investment but is currently seeking a working capital loan, possibly thru SBA’s Patriot Express Loan which targets the military community with access to capital via local lenders. The business currently employs 1 full time, 2 part time. The archery range is open from 4 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with additional kids’ classes Saturday mornings. It costs $7 to shoot and $5 to rent equipment, including training bows, traditional bows and more sophisticated bows for hunting and competition.
The silver lining in the dark cloud over the border is that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other Department of Homeland Security agencies infuse millions of dollars into the local economy. Besides enjoying the relative peace resulting from CBP’s protective presence, Valley businesses are increasingly the beneficiaries of spending by the federal agencies as well as by their off-duty employees.
In the late 1980sthe Rio Grande sector covered by CBP’s predecessor had between 300 and 500 agents. By 1998, the number had risen to 1,000. Today, the same sector, which covers 17,000 square miles, has 2,400 border patrol agents who are based at the new headquarters in Edinburg or at the nine regional stations: Brownsville, Fort Brown, Harlingen, Weslaco, McAllen and Rio Grande City plus Kingsville, Corpus Christi and Falfurrias. That surge in numbers reflects the federal response to both increased threats to homeland security and to the flood of illegal immigrants and smugglers probing the border for weak points. Amid the grimmer statistics are reassuring economic data: federal border spending has tripled in the last ten years. One estimate has put the spending on border security at $90 billion for the past decade.
The General Services Administration (GSA) is the central procurement division for federal agencies. It awards contracts for the installation of high tech watch towers and contracts for technology companies to maintain multi-million dollar rail and cargo screening equipment. It lines up food service for alien detention centers and contracts with veterinarians to care for drug-sniffing dogs and the animals of the horse patrol. The list of services and products seems endless; stabling, office supplies, equipment upgrades, vehicle tires and copy machine repairs. “Many of the products CBP uses are purchased from local vendors,” said Daniel Milian, supervisory border patrol agent, office of public affairs in Edinburg. “Often times, CBP tries to make purchases from small businesses but CBP also uses nationwide retailers in the RGV as well.
GSA offers businesses the opportunity to sell products and services to those agencies. When making a purchase, we use GSA when required and will verify if the purchase can be made through GSA. If not, then an outside vendor can be used.” Eric Ybarra of Weslaco-based Dos Logistics, Inc., in April signed a five-year contract to provide engineering and architectural professional services for various agencies of the Department of Homeland Security. “It is a great revenue generator for a small business like ours,” Ybarra said. “The SBA has provided me with the resources and tools to obtain federal contracts.” Dos Logistics became a certified 8(a) minority-owned small business, which enabled it to compete for contracts on the same level as much larger firms.
Since 1999 Dos Logistics has also worked with municipalities and counties and helped them develop infrastructure by pulling all the components together from design to funding and project management. Routine vehicle maintenance on CBP’s huge fleet of vehicles is generally handled by CBP employees. “However, local vendors are contracted for towing services and when there is a backlog of vehicles that require maintenance, vehicles are sent to local dealers,” Milian said. The Rio Grande Valley sector is the home of about 13 percent of CBP’s deployed forces on the border. Nevertheless, the number of border patrol agents per mile of border in California, Arizona and New Mexico is about double that found in Texas. Like other residents, border patrol agents and their families eat out in restaurants, shop for clothes, computers and groceries. Their kids take piano and karate lessons and participate in Little League and scouting. In fact, your neighbor with CBP could easily have been a history teacher or a news anchor or a graphic designer before moving into a better paying job.
The beginning of the border patrol dates back to 1904 and the mounted inspectors who tracked border smugglers. Interestingly, the RGV sector this past summer acquired its own horses instead of leasing them for its Horse Patrol. The reversion to horses gives greater accessibility in achieving the border patrol’s mission. It also opens yet another avenue where local small businesses can provide services and increase their incomes. CBP is the federal government’s largest law enforcement work force. In the Valley, that translates into over 2,000 firmly middle class households. Border patrol agents and other homeland security employees who live in the Valley spend their salaries in their communities, which have a positive impact on businesses and sales tax revenue. Border patrol agents’ starting salaries range between $38,000 and $49,000. Their average salary is $75,000, in part because overtime and 60-hour weeks are not uncommon, according to the CBP website.