SBDC Recognized for Excellent Service

 The Rio Grande College SBDC team includes, in back, from left to right Kevin Gonzalez, Cynthia Gomez, Esther Martinez, and Hector Ramirez. In front, left to right, are Karen Vega, Maricela Brown, Elizabeth Peña, and Luiza Garza. —Laura Nelson photo

By Laura Nelson

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) team at Sul Ross-Rio Grande College delivers free, high quality, personalized assistance to small business owners and prospective owners throughout the Middle Rio Grande region and they were recently recognized for group and individual accomplishments.

At the semi-annual regional directors’ meeting held in San Antonio in February, the RGC team picked up a productivity award for exceeding their goals in four categories in 2013. Those goals included client business startup; client business expansion; advising hours; and long-term client service. Elizabeth Peña, director, said, “I am extremely proud of my team’s accomplishments. It is through hard work and perseverance that SR-RGC-SBDC has been able to meet and exceed our economic goals in assisting people to start a business and small business owners to grow their businesses.”

The Rio Grande College SBDC is one of 10 field centers that is a part of the South-West Texas Border Network. The field centers cover 79 counties and serve communities small and large from El Paso to Brownsville to Austin. RGC’s center covers nine counties with offices in Carrizo Springs, Del Rio, Eagle Pass and Uvalde.

In addition to the group awards, four of the SBDC-RGC Business Development Specialists applied for and received Certified Business Advisor (CBA) certification through the South-West Texas Border SBDC network. All four met certain stringent criteria based on the level they were seeking including professional development, proven success assisting clients, and maintaining and adding to their client bases.

Eagle Pass native Cynthia Yadira Gomez earned the CBA IV designation, the highest level available. She knows firsthand the challenges small business owners face as she and husband Jesus own and operate their own construction company. The busy mom of Jesus Raul Gomez Jr. also holds a Texas Realtor’s license and has been a certified Quick Books Pro Adviser for seven years. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s both from Texas A&M International University in Laredo.

Another Eagle Pass native, Luiza Garza, qualified for the CBA II certification. She finds great satisfaction in helping people realize their dreams. One of her greatest accomplishments was helping an established Mexican food manufacturing company open a plant in the U.S. She provided assistance with all of the licensing and certification plus supported the company through a complete facility renovation. Luiza completed a bachelor’s in business at RGC and is now enrolled in the MBA program. She is married to Humberto O. Garza, a law enforcement official. The couple and their three sons, Humberto Jr., Orlando, and Alejandro are actively involved in scholastic and community activities.

Kevin Gonzalez, originally from Dilley, also met the requirements for the CBA II certification. He holds a business degree from RGC and is working towards his MBA. He enjoys interacting with clients and learning more about their business, and in fact, considers this his dream job. He helped one client begin with a food cart and then continued support as the business expanded to a restaurant. The self-proclaimed “brave eater” tries out different foods and likes to travel and read.

Hector Ramirez grew up in Laredo and earned his business degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio. After working as a micro-lender in his hometown, he began working for SBDC in Del Rio two years ago. He has earned his CBA II and continues to take classes toward a master’s degree in business at RGC. Hector plans to continue to grow professionally and would like to start and operate a small business. He appreciates the way SBDC works together as a team as well as the professional development opportunities that are available. In his spare time, Hector enjoys hunting and fishing and spending time with family and friends.

Other SBDC employees include Maricela Brown, the Business Training Specialist, and Esther Martinez, the Administrative Secretary, both based in Eagle Pass. Karen Vega rounds out the team of counselors. The newest member of the team, she is currently working on her CBA I qualification. Karen works out of her hometown of Carrizo Springs and is currently enrolled in RGC’s MBA program. She helped run a small business before working for SBDC and is particularly interested in helping women start and maintain their own businesses. Husband Luis Briseno is a lease operator and Karen has five children including Angel and Dylan Alfaro and Ava, Jace, and Aly Briseno. She gets pleasure from being an active source for economic impact and community development and said, “Helping others develop and grow their businesses is my passion.”

For more information about how the SBDC can help you develop or grow a small business, see their website at