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Texas A&M University College of Architecture



The Pláticas, Spanish for conversations, were a collaboration between Texas A&M University, the City of Brownsville, and Texas Southmost College as an initiative to help address how to improve the city’s local economy. The project team facilitated a series of focus groups that engaged: small business owners, local market vendors, market management, city officials, non-profit organizations, and community leaders. A total of 40 people participated in the pláticas.

The project followed the city’s planning department recommendation of facilitating three separate meetings: one for vendors and business owners, one for city leaders, and a third where both sides could come together and discuss views. They saw the pláticas as an opportunity to help portray issues of perception in relation to planning frameworks for the city from all sides of the spectrum. Our roles as researchers was to serve as facilitator and mediators between the city and local residents.

Faculty and students from the Architecture Program at Texas Southmost College were an essential partner for the pláticas. Fifteen architecture student volunteers from across the Rio Grande Valley served as discussion leaders and note takers for the focus groups. The participation of the students extended the scope and structure of the focus groups.

Some of the key lessons from the pláticas are: 1) vendors and the city recognized that there is a lack of capital and resources for small and microbusinesses and there is a need to make greater efforts to bring support to flea/markers markets. 2) The city saw its younger generation as their biggest asset, and market vendors stated that they, as human capital, are contributing to the local economy. 

This project was funded through a five year National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant targeting sustainability research under the Research Coordination Network (RCN) – Climate, Energy, Environment and Engagement in Semiarid Regions (CE3SAR).


Long Term Impact


1) The Pláticas economic development framework is being used to inform the Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development for the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative (SC2). The results were presented on November 17th, 2015 to the Federal Inter-Agency SC2 Team: US Army Corp of Engineers, DOE, EDA, EPA, FEMA, USDA, SBA, HUD, HHS, CDC, DOJ and the White House Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities Executive Director and Deputy Director. 

Reference: Laura E. Gomez Rodríguez I Team Lead-Brownsville, Texas;


2) Following their participation in the Pláticas, the Brownsville Economic Development Council invited the research team to present the economic development framework to their board in January, 2016 in an effort to integrate local economic development strategies to their working plan for South Texas.

Reference: Daniela Sosa, Business Retention & Expansion and Economic Research Specialist;


3) The City of Brownsville Main Street Program is using the local economic development frameworks developed through the Pláticas to inform their development of a Downtown Comprehensive Plan targeting economic revitalization through preservation and local economic development.The director of the program was a participant of the Pláticas and Texas A&M University has extended its partnership with the city to assist this effort.

Reference: Miriam C. Suarez, Main Street Manager, City of Brownsville, Planning and Development Services;

4) After participating in the Pláticas, the director of the Small Business Administration (SBA) recognized the need of the agency to better serve its community and stationed an economic development specialist stationed in the downtown, at City Plaza. This resource is available every other Tuesday to assist Brownsville resident and veterans wishing to grow or open a business.

Reference: Angela Burton, Small Business Administration District Director Lower Rio Grande Valley District;


Platicas 1

Platicas 2

Platicas 3


"Platicas" on Local Economic Development


Three free workshops, open to the public, were held to develop a strategy for improving local economic development through opportunities for markets vendors in Brownsville, Texas. 


Market vendors, market management, city leaders, and community members interested in small business development were all invited to participate.


Workshop 1: Vendor Workshop. Monday November 9, 6pm-9pm. Location: St. Joseph Church, San Juan Hall. 555 W St Francis St, Brownsville, TX 78520

Workshop 2: Leaders/Partners Workshop. November 10th 10am-1pm. Location: BC Workshop Meeting Room 609 11th St, Brownsville, TX 78520

Workshop 3: Summary Workshop [Vendors & Leaders/Partners]. November 16th 6pm-9pm. Location: BC Workshop Meeting Room 609 11th St, Brownsville, TX 78520

Free food will be provided at the workshops.

For more information please contact:

Edna Ledesma,


Pláticas para el Desarrollo Económico Local

Que: Tres talleres gratuitos y abiertos al público , se llevaron a cabo para desarrollar una estrategia para mejorar el desarrollo económico local a través de las oportunidades de los mercados en Brownsville, Texas.

Quien:  Vendedores del mercados como las pulgas o el "Farmers' Market , gerentes de mercados, líderes de la ciudad, y los miembros de la comunidad interesados en el desarrollo de las pequeñas empresas fueron invitados a participar.


Taller 1 : Taller de Vendedores Lunes 9 de Noviembre 6pm-9pm. Ubicación: Iglesia San José, salon San Juan 555 W San Francisco St, Brownsville, TX 78520

Taller 2 : Taller de Líderes/Socios Locales Martes 10 de Noviembre 10am-1pm. Ubicación: BC Workshop, salón de reuniones 609 11th St , Brownsville, TX 78520

Taller 3 : Resumen General [Vendedores y Líderes/Socios Locales] Lunes 16 de Noviembre 18:00-21:00. Ubicación: BC Workshop, salon de reuniones 609 11th St , Brownsville, TX 78520 

Habrá comida gratis en todos los talleres.

Para obtener más información, póngase en contacto:

Edna Ledesma,


Report:  Platicas: Working Report (Icon 14.0 MB)