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Brownsville’s economic outlook improving

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Posted: Monday, April 30, 2007 12:00 am

If Baker Niazi’s experience has taught him anything it’s that Brownsville has a need for doctors.

Niazi turned that bit of knowledge into a business in 2004, and he has been bring-ing doctors to the Rio Grande Valley ever since.

“There’s a huge market for this in Brownsville,” Niazi said. “I’ve got a lot of work.”

This year Niazi, 37, was selected as the 2007 Area Minority Small Business Champion of the Year for the Lower Rio Grande Valley District of the Small Busi-ness Administration.

Niazi’s business, called Valley Medical Recruiting, adds to the growing list of Brownsville economic successes.

Now, there is one more to add to the list.

Brownsville is one of the Best Places for Business and Careers, according to Forbes magazine.

Forbes ranked the Brownsville metropolitan statistical area 184th among the major metropolitan areas in the United States and 10th in the state of Texas.

“What we see today is the result of what the community did 20 years ago,” said Gilbert Salinas, director of communications for the Brownsville Economic Development Council. “We continue to strive for prosperity and I envision an even bigger and better Brownsville in five to ten years from now.”

Brownsville’s ranking jumped 51 spots since 2005 mostly because of job growth, a low cost of living and low cost of doing busi-ness.

The rankings are based on a variety of factors, including cost of doing business, cost of living, educational attain-ment, job growth, crime rate, colleges, net migration, income growth and culture and leisure.

There is also evidence of Brownsville’s improving economic outlook in its unemployment rates.

Last week the Texas Workforce Commission announced that unemploy-ment rates for the Brownsville-Harlingen met-ropolitan statistical area dropped to 5.8 percent in March.

Indeed, job growth is evident by the number of new businesses that have opened in the last year such as Chick-fil-A and Falcon Bank.

That trend looks to continue with the recent announcement that Kohl’s, a departmental store, and Conn’s, a home and electronic appliance retailer, plan to open stores in North Brownsville.

And some new businesses pay more than minimum wage, such as Save-A-Lot grocery chain, which starts employees at $7 an hour and has opened two stores in the last six months.

National and regional chains aren’t the only businesses finding success in Brownsville.

Niazi found a niche market, recruiting doctors to Rio Grande Valley hospitals, and he plans to expand recruitment to include nurses and physical therapists.

Since 2004 he has brought about 50 doctors to different parts of the Valley, and he earns around $18,000 for each doctor.

He first came up with the idea while working as the administrator for the emergency room at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville.

Part of his job included finding doctors to fill areas of need. He dealt mostly with companies on the East Coast, until one day it dawned on him that he could make a career of recruiting doctors.

After just a year and a half at Valley Baptist, Niazi launched Valley Medical Recruiting with $5,000.

“Every day, small business entrepreneurs enhance the lives of others by unselfishly giving of their time and efforts,” said Robert Chavarria, district director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Small Business Administration District Office.

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