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New Technologies Shape the Coastal Bend’s Future

Forward-thinking enterprises in the Coastal Bend are developing new technologies that are expected to create thousands of jobs and have billions of dollars’ worth of economic impact over the next few years.

By Gary Wollenhaupt on July 31, 2015

Forward-thinking enterprises in the Coastal Bend are developing new technologies that are expected to create thousands of jobs and have billions of dollars’ worth of economic impact over the next few years.
Many of these innovators are helping to create entirely new industries in the region. ARANA Water Technologies, for example, has developed technology with potential for recycling contaminated water produced by fracking. The advanced oxidation treatment system should save oil companies money, protect the environment and conserve water.
That same technology has excellent potential for large-scale uses, including municipal drinking water, wastewater treatment, remediation and desalination, which could help alleviate the effects of droughts.
“There’s almost no water application that ARANA’s technologies cannot provide some type of benefit for,” says Jeff Soward, President of ARANA.
Change in the Air
At Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, the Lone Star UAS Center (LSUASC) is exploring the uses of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as drones. The center has an FAA-approved landing strip at Port Mansfield Airport.
As one of just a handful of locations across the country with permission from the FAA to test unmanned aircraft, the Lone Star UAS Center supports businesses that want to test and research aircraft, software and potential uses of unmanned aircraft.
“It is important for the region to take a leadership role in the development of these technologies because the UAS aviation sector promises to be among the nation’s fastest-growing industrial sectors in coming years as business entities explore UAS applications,” says Ron George, Senior Research Development Officer for LSUASC.
“LSUASC already has become a magnet for private-sector companies and government agencies seeking our services in support of their adoption of UAS technologies,” George says. “This aviation sector creates not just jobs but careers that just a few years ago did not exist.”
The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts the industry will create more than 5,500 jobs and have more than $1 billion in economic impact in Texas within two years of integration. Within 10 years, the number of jobs will grow to more than 8,250, and the economic impact will top $6.5 billion.
“We believe the Coastal Bend’s share of this statewide development will be significant, because the university, the city of Corpus Christi and our private-sector partner, Camber Corp., among others, have invested in capturing the UAS test-site designation and establishing the LSUASC,” George says.
Homegrown Successes
Other growing technology-based startups in the Coastal Bend include Hydro Enviro Clean, which cleans heavy metals from oil field wastewater and recently received the Eagle Ford Excellence Award for Environmental Stewardship; InnerGeo, which develops renewable energy for conventional power systems; and Ergo Voice, which received a patent for its ergonomic micronized transmitter. The company innovates ergonomic ways to wear wireless gear for TV and film production, performing arts, fitness instruction, worship services and sports.
All of these companies have the support of the Coastal Bend Innovation Center (CBIC) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
“We typically have companies representing 12 to 15 business clusters out of our membership which usually is between 25 and 30 active clients,” says CBIC Director William Cone. “The only common denominator we look for is innovation, in the product, process, or service being offered.”
CBIC offers a variety of services, including use of a 3-D printer to create prototypes. Other forms of support for new businesses include an intensive nine-week pre-incubation course for innovators who have ideas but need direction, as well as a customized acceleration program to help businesses grow into their potential and a soft landing program for those new to the Coastal Bend that need flexible office space for a while.
Innovators at the CBIC have access to the South Coast Angel Network, (SCAN), an independent group of angel investors who have come together to provide an efficient way for entrepreneurs to access capital.
“The significance of this group cannot be overstated in terms of importance to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in this region,” Cone says. “As the only angel group south of Interstate 10 in the state, SCAN allows early-stage and innovative companies a single stop to get in front of 25 to 30 accredited investors as opposed to making that many separate contacts and presentations.”
The CBIC is a valuable community asset, Cone says.
“Its focus on growing our own businesses provides economic diversification in the region, good jobs for area individuals, and creates opportunities for our best and brightest to stay here rather than leave for opportunities elsewhere,” he says.

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