Author Archives: Ez Lara

JIM DARLING – McALLEN’S MAYOR

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Jim Darling has a passion for being Mayor of McAllen. Going through a peso devaluation and violence in Tamaulipas, as well as other issues, have kept the mayor on his toes. With an extensive background, from his psychology and law degrees, having passed the bar on his first try, to his 28 years as City Attorney and six years as City Commissioner, Mayor Jim Darling is well equipped to handle the goings on of McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley. Darling was forthright about his time in office, the challenges, and the successes. “I think the last four years have been pretty interesting simply because I’m a border mayor,” he began. “Some of the rhetoric out of Washington has changed, creating diverse issues for us to deal with alongside our southern neighbors.” One issue, he said, was the federal government stating there was a border crisis when there was none.…

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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW – BRENT BALDREE

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“Brent Baldree, regional president of the Rio Grande Valley, Texas Regional Bank, grew up in the Texas Coastal Bend city of Portland. As the oldest child of a single dad, he learned early on about responsibility from helping at home and working at a young age. “Because my dad was a traveling salesman, I had a lot of responsibility early on,” Brent said. “I grew up quickly.” Still, through the steady teachings of his father, he developed a passion for hunting, fishing and sports. As a result of playing offensive guard at Gregory-Portland High School under the renowned coach Ray Akins, he believes he learned the meaning of teamwork and true grit. While striving towards earning his degree in business management at Southwest Texas State University, now Texas State, Brent worked in restaurants and on a farm. He firmly believes it was his early life with his dad, along with…

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HEALTHCARE PROFILE – DR. GUILLERMO SALINAS, MD, FACC, FSCAI

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Dr. Jeremy Enslein started off the interview with a short and succinct statement. “Dr. Salinas is an amazing physician. I’m very lucky to have had him as my partner for the last 10 years.” Dr. Guillermo Salinas is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Diseases and Interventional Cardiology by American Board of Internal Medicine. Salinas was born in Mexico City and raised in Baja. At an early age he knew he wanted to be a physician. “I used to play little doctor games and do surgery on my erasers,” Salinas said. Though he’s not positive it was his grandfather’s passing with a heart problem that led him to specialize in the heart, he does know he always had an interest in the heart. Going to medical school in Monterrey, Mexico, then the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and completing his rotation in the cardiology field confirmed his feelings.…

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HEALTHCARE PROFILE – DR. CARLOS HERRERA, M.D., F.A.C.O.G GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGIST

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America, the beautiful, the land of opportunity! That’s exactly what young Carlos Herrera believed growing up in Mexico City. All around him everything he heard and saw was about the United States and what a great country it was. “We were constantly exposed to American goods, cartoons and TV shows,” Herrera said. “I noticed how the United States was way ahead when it came to science. Both scientific and medical programs always showed how good life was becoming in the U.S. and as medicine progressed, the Americans’ quality of life got better. By the age of 16, I knew I had to be a doctor and I knew I wanted to go to the United States and attend medical school.” The oldest of three, Herrera followed his conviction that America was the place where dreams could come true and began searching options for colleges. At 18, Herrera had the grades,…

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MEET YOUR AMBASSADOR – FLOWER GUERRERO

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Flower Guerrero has taken the power of her name, Guerrero/Warrior, and turned it into a tool for her marketing consultant position with Entravision, along with her 15 years of marketing and media experience. “I call myself Biz Warrior,” she said, identifying closely with her clients as a past business owner herself. “I have a group of Biz Warriors on Facebook – my clients, my business owners.” “I enjoy working with small businesses to find marketing solutions,” she said. “I’m able to bring all that experience into one place, one position for my clients and help the community.” Becoming an Ambassador fits in with her belief that one should be involved in the community. But it’s more than that. “My purpose is to give back, and giving back means being involved in the business community through the Chamber. One of my favorite initiatives of the Chamber is Latina Hope. It’s wonderful…

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BUSINESS YOU SHOULD KNOW – A BLOCK AWAY QUILT SHOP

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Passion gives small business entrepreneurs the impetus to succeed. Be it food, marketing or quilting, if the passion is there, it is more likely the business will succeed. Ron and Barb Bergquist easily fit into this realm. Retired from careers in IT, they moved to the Valley on December 31, 2010, thinking they were going to enjoy the good life. They did, for a while. Then, on a trip to a picturesque town in Virginia a few years ago, Barb made an off-handed remark to Ron that would change their lives. “Wouldn’t this be a nice little place for a quilt shop?” Barb’s long-time passion for quilting was well-known by her husband. After intense research, they test marketed their concept for the shop online. “We used Facebook and increased our Search Engine Optimization by signing up for everything on Yahoo, Bing, and more so people would know we’re out there.…

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IMAGINE THAT! – IMAGINE IT STUDIOS

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John’s television background started him accidentally into the advertising agency he opened in 1998. “One of my first clients liked my ideas so much they said, ‘Why don’t you do all of our advertising?’ My business wasn’t an advertising agency yet, but I quickly replied, ‘Absolutely! That would be easy.’ It turned out it wasn’t,” John said. He was a hard worker and wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity. By 2004, the internet was already popular and John felt a need for quality web design in the Rio Grande Valley. He and former partner Abel Riojas joined forces to create Imagine It Studios, and began developing websites. While the market was crashing in 2008, Imagine It Studios was taking off as digital media was coming into its own. Evolving, they became a full service digital marketing agency including such services as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), web-design and development, content…

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COSTEP – YOUR PATH TO FINANCIAL CONFIDENCE

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Patricia Beard, President Credit: one word that can devastate someone’s life if the credit is deemed “bad.” On the other hand, “good” credit will find new cars, homes, and all manner of items acquirable, which could then land one in “bad” credit again if payments exceed the ability to pay. Tricky thing, that little word credit. But COSTEP, Council for South Texas Economic Progress, has a mission – teaching Valley residents everything they need to know about credit and financial literacy to become financially stable. “Since 2010 when the majority of student loans became a government program, our main goal at that time had been to service student loans. But we found ourselves taking a step back,” Patricia Beard, president, COSTEP, began. “We asked ourselves the question, ‘How can COSTEP continue to help the Valley?’ One answer, which became clear, was credit repair. We found numerous people were being taken…

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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW – SARAH SAGREDO-HAMMOND, PRESIDENT

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Atlas Electrical, Air-Conditioning, Refrigeration and Plumbing Life for Sarah Sagredo-Hammond, president of Atlas Electrical, Air-conditioning, Refrigeration and Plumbing, began in North Dakota where her parents were field workers. “It was simply the only way to make money at that time,” Sarah said. When her father joined the Air Force, he changed the course of their whole family’s future. Learning electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning in the Air Force ultimately led him to open Atlas in 1982. “I was 10 when my dad opened the company with my mom,” she said. “By the age of 12, I would answer phones on weekends, dispatch the technicians and do collections.” Though she went to work for attorneys after graduation, she always kept her hand in the family business, working part time in the financial end of the company. In 2008, her brother, working with their father and mother at Atlas, came…

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MEET YOUR AMBASSADOR – MONICA VEGA

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One thing people will immediately realize when meeting the Director of Sales and Marketing of OGI Hotels, Monica Vega, is that this lady is enthusiastic. “I started with them nine years ago as night auditor,” she said. “The owners would call at 3 AM to check on the hotel. I was so cheerful they moved me to Front Desk day.” She’s been Front Desk AM and PM, Front Office Manager and General Manager, working at some point in all 14 of the company’s hotels across South Texas. But nothing has compared to her current position. “You’ve got to be a certain kind of crazy to thrive in the hotel industry,” she said. “What I love is that there’s something new and different every day. I also love how OGI is a family run business. If you work for Oceangate, you are a part of the Oceangate family.” Bringing that same…

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BOB GOODWIN AWARD WINNER

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Becoming a Bob Goodwin Award Winner takes a lot of work, persistence and love for the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. Marie Perez exemplifies what a good Chamber member and a good Ambassador stand for, and she credits it all to Bob Goodwin. “When we moved down here in the late ‘70s, I became involved with the Chamber, joining the President’s Club, now the Ambassadors,” Marie explained. “I met Bob and would watch him work. He knew everybody because he went to everything, representing the Chamber and the bank he worked for. He was somebody special everyone knew, respected and loved. I thought to myself, ‘I want to be like him.’” Because she is so like Bob in many ways, selling over $10,000 worth of memberships, she has reached her goal. Marie believes her successful 28 year career in the hospitality industry, including her 11 years at the Tower Club, was…

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MEGO AFEK

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Raquel Hochman, General Director-USA, Mexico Life in the oil industry is like a roller coaster ride. First they send you here, and then there, and then everywhere. At least for Isaac Hochman and family it seemed like that as they moved from McAllen to Tyler, Texas, then to Reynosa, and then to penguin heaven, Patagonia, Argentina. Last, Isaac moved his family to Venezuela where Raquel, last of their three children, was born. At that time Venezuela was one of the top oil producers in the world, and the government was involved in the business. “There was a need for our products, and nobody was making them locally,” Raquel Hochman, General Director-USA, Mexico, said as she told the story of her American petroleum engineer father. “Since he was already manufacturing other items for the industry and there was incentive to produce these items as well, he decided to start the company…

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BUSINESS YOU SHOULD KNOW – SOUTH TEXAS UAV

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Joshua Hill Chief Instructor Finding a need and filling it is the mainstay of any entrepreneur. Ex-Navy Air Traffic Controller and current Air Traffic Controller for the McAllen Miller International Airport Joshua Hill’s roll as entrepreneur expanded last year. Along with VIP Travel Consultants in McAllen, Joshua is the Chief Instructor of five total for South Texas UAV, (unmanned aerial vehicle), otherwise known as a drone. It was one of his travel clients who made him aware of the lack of training for anything drone related in the Valley. Not only does UAV hold classes in how to fly a drone, it also teaches people how to open a commercial drone business, answering such questions as: Where do customers come from? How do we market our business? What insurance coverage is necessary? Most important is the class which trains people how to pass their 14 CFR (code of federal regulations)…

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PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW – GLORIA GRACIA

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Gloria Gracia, General Director De Shopping En El Valle/De Shopping En Texas Gloria Gracia is a mogul of her own design, a go-getter, a traveling saleswoman, a planner, she is also a member of the International Relations Committee for the McAllen Chamber. There are many more titles which could be added to this General Director of De Shopping en el Valle, now De Shopping en Texas. Born in Brownsville, Gloria lived in Mexico until returning to Brownsville to attend college at 17 to obtain her degree in Business Administration. Developing her long time love for industry, she managed engineers who handled calibration services for local maquiladoras, and now maintains her involvement with the industry through her brother’s magazines including Mexico Industry. In December 2015, she established her commercial cleaning company, Clean Management Services, while continuing her career working for her brother. When seeing a lack in Valley promotion, he convinced…

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MEET YOUR AMBASSADOR – CELINA GONZALES

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Celina Gonzales, South Texas Marketing Liaison for Neighbors Emergency Centers, NEC, is one of the fascinating people here in The Valley. After a career as a legal secretary in litigation law, Celina decided to transition into the healthcare field. “Healthcare was the best direction for me,” she explained. “Working in the freestanding emergency department industry has kept me on my toes and taught me to be adaptive as well as creative in my environment. “We’ve been around since 2009. I love being a part of a company that’s invested in the community and doesn’t hesitate to fill the need, wherever it may be.” Being an ambassador has brought her a whole new set of friends. “I enjoy meeting everybody, and love the relationships we’ve built together.” In her spare time and after family time with her two children, she has entered the Valley’s world of polo. Between watching the McAllen…

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