Josh Mejia, going on a year as executive director of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, has been named Young Economic Professional of the Year by the International Economic Development Council.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet, but all I can say is that I feel grateful for it,” said the Brownsville native, who came on board as BCIC interim director a little over two years ago.
As interim, Mejia was tasked with helping maintaining the BCIC board’s momentum in a new direction since the departure of the previous executive director, though he went a bit farther than that.
“We didn’t waste any time,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose any momentum. We were able to get some really big wins during my interim year as executive director, one of which was being able to successfully obtain an (Economic DevelopmentAdministration) grant that will be used for retrofitting of the Casa de Nylon building for an entrepreneurial center.”
Aside from that, Mejia and the board managed to “establish a different culture within the organization,” launch new programs and “take ownership of our new economic development role as BCIC.
Mejia said that as someone who left the city to work and then returned, he’s a big believer in Brownsville’s potential for retaining its “human capital” and even attract human capital from outside the Rio Grande Valley. Part of his vision for BCIC, one shared by his board and the city’s elected officials, is to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem conducive to business and retaining human capital.
“The business improvement and growth program that we have, or BIG as we like to call it, was intended to be able to help out those local investors be able to take part in the rehabilitation of downtown,” Mejia said. “And we did see a lot of that at first, a lot of local folks taking advantage of it, but then before you knew it we had a lot of outside individuals that were starting (become interested) and actually take those steps to become part of the rehabilitation process. Traci Wickett, president and CEO of United Way of Southern Cameron County and a BCIC board member, called Mejia a “young leader with unlimited potential.” “He knows Brownsville inside and out, so he understands that entrepreneurship is woven into the fabric of our community,” she said. “Josh doesn’t just focus on the traditional economic development approach of wooing outside businesses to colonize our community, he understands that we have people with phenomenal skills and talents right here at home, and he helps local entrepreneurs make their dreams come true. His approach is both balanced and incredibly effective.”
BCIC board Chairman Michael Limas said Mejia’s recognition by the IEDC, which he called a “team victory,” was absolutely warranted and reflects his impressive leadership in an organization with limitations.
“We don’t have a tremendous budget,” Limas said. “Almost half is dedicated to covering the previous year’s debt. To be able to stretch these dollars and to really have a robust platform now is really great to see.”
Mejia showed up at just the right time, with the board trying to push BCIC in a new direction, Limas said.
“That was that tipping point where everything just started to click,” he said. “Josh took over as the leader, he had complete buy in, and from the board it was disrupting the model of BCIC, redefining BCIC and really implement a cultural shift. Josh has been the face of that culture shift, and you see it not only internally within staff but you see it in how much more robust we are as an (economic development) team than previous years.”
Limas said Mejia’s job is not an easy one and that the board is “over the moon” at his performance and pleased to see him honored by the IEDC.
“It’s always great to kind of get that pat on the back, but obviously this is a huge, international pat on the back, so that’s pretty cool,” Limas said. “Ultimately, the beneficiaries of all of this are the citizens of Brownsville.”