Category Archives: Chamber News



McAllen ISD students continue to stand out. There are 2 groups of students that have excelled and make the entire city proud. National Merit Scholar Finalists McAllen ISD’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program students Gabriel Ramirez of McAllen High and Calvin Beck of McAllen Memorial High have been named National Merit Scholar finalists. This Spring, Ramirez and Beck will compete along with 1.6 million juniors for 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth an approximate $33 million at the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) competition. “We are very proud, for this is a statement to their hard work and everything they do in and out of the classroom,” said McAllen ISD Superintendent Dr. J.A. Gonzalez. NMSC is a privately funded, not-for-profit organization based in Evanston, Illinois founded in 1955 to specifically conduct the Annual Merit Scholarship Program. Each year, high school officials nominate students with an outstanding academic record who are required to…

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As the definition states, Innovation Grants are designed to allow entrepreneurial pioneers to advance their groundbreaking ideas towards reality. Six individuals were chosen for the 2016 awards and it is a diverse group. From a bear’s arm as a gun case to an on-the-go golf tee carrier clip to foodstuffs to apps, here are the winners. Loading Screen Studios: Brando Lugo Winning a grant for equipment and office space, Loading Screen Studios is developing its first game, In the Year 2099. Alive with a brilliantly colored game screen, the gamers are designing it to be intuitive and customizable for the audience. In fact, their research with locals at various events gave them what they needed to finish the app. “After they gave us their feedback, we incorporated it into the game and were pleased we had listened,” Lugo said. “Ultimately the game became what they would want to buy.” Able…

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1) What is your favorite book? Other than the Bible, I would say 1776 by David McCullough. It’s an interesting look at our founding fathers and, specifically, George Washington. You have a direct insight into his thought process, his feelings and his inner workings because it features practically all of his letters he wrote personally. It’s from the author’s point of view and we’re able to see the incredible intellectual powerhouse that Washington was. He wrote probably more letters in that short period of time than most people do emails today. They are so well-written, so eloquent. Each letter is so inspirational. It’s no wonder people elevated him to the status he had. 2) What is your favorite movie? It has to be Star Wars, the whole series. Star Wars, the first one is the one that captured me in 1977 as a young boy. It’s timeless. The little models…

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Johnny Rodriguez loves what he does. “I think I have the greatest job in the world representing Bert Ogden alongside my Dynamic Duo partner, Augie Lozano. I love being an extension of Janet and Bob Vackar. I feel humble they entrust me with representing Bert Ogden and the 17 dealerships.” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez found his way into public relations along a circuitous route. “I was in the staffing agency business for over 25 years,” Rodriguez said. “I think I was involved with every single chamber in the Valley from Brownsville to McAllen. Being part of the McAllen Ambassador program is one of the biggest tools any organization can have. We meet many individuals who become life-long friends!” Raising Simbrah Cattle on their KJ Cattle Company ranch is a source of pride and joy for him and son John Paul, with many grand champions among their home grown bulls. Add fishing…

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Fishing and sports, German Shepherds/Belgian Malinois and a love of marketing all make up a part of Jennifer Vasquez, McAllen Chamber Ambassador. Jennifer has been the Marketing Manager for BlueWave Express over three years, ever since the company opened in the Valley. A Mass Communications with PR and Advertising graduate from The University of Texas Pan American, Jennifer makes good use of her time as an Ambassador. “I want to get BlueWave Express more involved with the community,” the, co-chair of the Ambassadors said. “It’s been a great opportunity to spread the word about the company and to educate the area about our services, including our three-minute wash, free vacuums and memberships.” BlueWave Express has five Rio Grande Valley locations, with two more opening soon and eight more locations in Houston. Among Jennifer’s hobbies are fishing and enjoying being with her family, which currently includes 12 dogs (6 puppies) of…

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Every year the Chamber’s Top 5 Small Businesses Committee selects five small businesses out of those entered to represent the small business community of McAllen. The five named businesses for 2016 are Alberico Fine Wine, McAllen Country Club, Mail-Pak Your Box Store, Texas Border Business/MegaDoctor News and The Dry Room. “Winning this award is a confirmation to my staff that over these past years their work has been recognized as quality,” said Rick Ramos, owner, Alberico Fine Wine. “There are so many small, successful businesses that have been around for such a long time. This is a humbling experience.” Ramos’s dream of owning his own restaurant became a reality over five years ago when he decided to open a new concept, offering wine at retail prices with meals. Celebrated for excellent cuisine, Alberico Fine Wine has put top emphasis in food quality and customer service. Pro-active in giving back to…

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    1) What is your favorite book? Dinesh d’Souza is my favorite author. Right now, one of the books I’m currently enjoying is Stealing America. I like autobiographical books mainly.   2) What is your favorite movie? I’m a big Star Wars fan so the entire Star Wars series. I like the villains so I do like the Darth Vader characters, the scythes. I would say, however, that out of them all Han Solo might be my favorite.   3) What was your favorite vacation spot? I like the beach but it gets a little old. I like places which have activity like New Orleans and Las Vegas.   4) What is your life’s motto? Don’t sweat the small stuff!   5) Where were you born? McAllen, TX. I’m a true blue local, born in the old downtown hospital.   6) What was a life changing event in your…

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McAllen ISD IB Programme students’ space experiment ready for liftoff

A project by McAllen Independent School District students will be launched into space next week. It’s one of only 21 selected from across the entire North American continent.  Three students Sabrina Benitez, Sofia Escobar and Juan Pablo Flanagan from McAllen ISD’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Lamar Academy conceptualized and produced a scientific proposal that will achieve realization on the International Space Station hovering above the Earth. The scheduled launch date currently scheduled for 9:01 a.m. CT on Saturday, February 18 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The results will be shipped back to Earth in March. Students will conduct the same experiment on Earth (under gravity conditions) during the month while it is conducted in space. The results will be compared. Progress on the ISS can be monitored on the SSEP website. They wanted to know if you can grow tomatoes on Mars.  A mountain of research over six weeks…

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12 Questions with board member Art Ortega, Ortega Ventures & Investments


1) What is your favorite book? I would have to say my favorite book is the Bible. It provides guidance for any and all situations whether good, bad or indifferent. In good times you can find inspiration, in bad times you can find hope, and in times of tranquility you get a sense of responsibility of what you could do to make this world better. 2) What is your favorite movie? There are several, but I would say the animated movie, Madagascar. My three kids and I laughed so hard and I guess that’s why I liked it so much. It brings the family together and it gives you a moment of bonding. The movie has a moral, but more than anything it is the companionship and the bonding with the kids you’ll always remember. 3) What is your favorite vacation spot? We went to Honolulu and then to Maui.…

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People You Should Know – Joe Brown, Director of Development Rio Grande Valley Community Foundation


  Joe Brown is wearing a new hat. Known throughout the area for his years of banking experience, moving into the retirement arena just didn’t quite fit him. Becoming Director of Development for the Rio Grande Valley Community Foundation fit him to a tee. Using his formidable background, it will be an easy switch for him to continue guiding the works of the foundation. In 2000, Steve Ahlenius suggested the area needed a community foundation, and he was the force behind getting it developed into a 501(c)(3). It is a separate entity from the Chamber. Community foundations have been around since 1914, when banker  Frederick Goff convinced the Cleveland Trust board to adopt a Resolution and Declaration of Trust creating the Cleveland Foundation – the first community foundation. Organized to provide philanthropic options for individuals, businesses and organizations, community foundations aid them in intelligent giving and assisting the givers to…

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Business You Should Know – Valencia Event Center


“Dreamers dream and developers build. Eddie Cantu, developer and Hidalgo County Commissioner, was both when he built Valencia Event Center. “When my sister got married she found it difficult to find a place for the ceremony,” Cantu said. “I decided to build an event center with the idea of simply renting out the facility.” What he rapidly discovered was that it wasn’t that easy. “People wanted us to do it all, from food to linens to flowers to lighting. ‘Everything but the dress!’ has become our motto!” To do that, Cantu added a full kitchen beside the 10,000 square foot facility, which has an additional 7,000 square foot patio. Working with IDEO Art & Design, Cantu designed a building that has been turned into Oz and all manner of magical places for quinceañeras, weddings, fundraisers, and campaign events. “We took the ceiling up to 35 feet to give it a…

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13 Questions with McAllen Chamber Board Member Nora Shah


1) What is your favorite book? Gone with the Wind.  I’ve read it and seen the movie several times. 2) What is your favorite movie? I watch so many movies. I love funny or action movies like “The Proposal” and “The Fugitive.” 3) What was your favorite vacation spot? Paris is one. It’s so romantic. It’s old and I like the history. In Europe you see a lot of that. I love to see the old buildings and think how it was in the past. 4) What is your life’s  motto? I’ve been going through life doing what’s best and learning from people who inspire me. I love to learn. We never stop learning. 5) Where were you born? Brownsville, Texas 6) What was a life-changing event in your life? Having my four children and opening the business, I’m always dedicated to that. It keeps me changing, it keeps me focused. 7)…

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Passion for the Chamber Leads to Bob Goodwin Awards


Four Chamber members have been awarded the Bob Goodwin Award after having sold over $10,000 worth of memberships. “I worked at the Chamber as the Membership Director for five years in the ‘80s,” said award winner Francy Jones, Public Relations and Marketing Director for Castle Hospitality, LTD. “I had the pleasure to work side by side with Bob Goodwin. He was an Ambassador along with Alida Hernandez and Dora Brown, and many others. They were always competing with each other to get more members,” she continued. Bob was a unique individual, a handsome man always in a suit with one of his great ties! He would go to every ribbon cutting and almost every opening. Bob was the face of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. It means a lot to me to win this since I knew him personally.” Winning this was no easy feat and came as a surprise…

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Public Art – A Reflection of our Humanity


The Clarks Donate the  stainless Gatekeeper, a sculpture by Tobolowsky Art is a part of Clark’s soul, and has been since he was very young. Selling his first painting for $400 at 10 years of age was the start of his career in the colorful, captivating world of art. “I was a sculpture and drawing major at the University of New Mexico,” Kirk began. “I was a ‘found object’ guy using automotive found objects-bumpers, fenders and things like that. I used to go to junkyards, eyeing these giant mounds of steel and stand next to the crane operator who moved the pile from one side to another. “‘Stop, stop, stop!’ I’d yell, and run up the pile of metal, which would have probably cut my leg off if I had fallen, and pick up some odd piece I’d seen unveiled. “What the heck are you going to do with these pieces of…

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The Romero Group – Where the sales are happening!


ROMERO GROUP  3901 North Jackson Road McAllen Texas 78501 USA  TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL? IS THE ADVERTISING QUESTION  Romero Group an international ad firm, just opened an office at The Monitor managed by Mr. Joseph Romero de Velasco Sr. Creative Director who hails from Dallas where he opened the agency with Larkin, Meeder & Schweidel, a spring child from GSD&M, Austin in 1993. “Our objective here is to expand sales to the local businesses via innovative technologies and ideas including shopping and investments from Mexico.” Said Mr. Romero a former mad man at Campbell Mithun – Esty in Minneapolis. After winning the 3M Thinsulate account vs. BBD&O, moved to Dallas where Romero Group assisted his client Ford Motor Credit (Associates Financial Services) develop a joint venture with the Puerto Rico’s government with an ad campaign to promote Puerto Rico’s Olympians such as former boxing champion Daniel Santos. “Joseph’s…

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