Posted: 5/05/17

TAMIU SBDC Award Nominee Earns SBA San Antonio District Honor


Michael Gonzalez

The San Antonio Small Business Administration District awarded its "Minority Small Business of the Year Award" this week to a Laredo business couple that the Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) Small Business Development Center (SBDC) initially recognized with its Small Business Week Award.

Roque Vela, Sr. and his wife, Cookie Vela, owners of Jett Bowling Lanes, Inc., were selected for the "Minority Small Business of the Year Award" in recognition of their most recent, "Pla-Mor" project. They were honored at a luncheon at the Omni San Antonio Hotel at the Colonnade.

The Vela couple and their family are working to reopen a once-popular Pla-Mor Amusement Center in Laredo at a new location on Loop 20. The project entails a 45,000 square feet family amusement center, complete with laser tag and a rock-climbing wall. The future Amusement Center held its groundbreaking ceremony in April. The facility is expected to open in Spring 2018.

Roque Vela Sr., owner of Pla-Mor, said he values the assistance of the TAMIU SBDC.

"We believe that without the help of the TAMIU SBDC our expansion may not have happened," he said, "It helped ensure our long-term success."

Vela said he felt both humbled and honored to be selected for these awards.

"It is great to be recognized for all of our hard work and achievements," Vela said, "We've always strived to be a big part of our community and it's nice to know that our efforts have not gone unnoticed."

He continued, "That said, it's not the reason that we do what we do. We do it because we love our city and its people and we feel privileged to be a part of this community."

Other selections at the local SBDC level included Lolita's Bistro and H.N.A. Electric.

Lolita's Bistro is a local restaurant that has offered a unique, casual and fine-dining experience in a warm and inviting atmosphere since 2012.

Gabriela Fernández, owner of Lolita's Bistro, said she thinks that the SBDC was crucial to helping her start her business.

"As a novice entrepreneur, I had very little knowledge about starting a business," she said, "My advisor guided me through the whole process of starting up, opening, and has been with me ever since."

Fernández continued, "Currently, my advisor is still guiding me with different kinds of accounting issues as well as business advice. Without the SBDC's help, the whole process would have been tremendously harder and very expensive as I would have had to seek professional advice and services from attorneys and accountants."

H.N.A. Electric is a professional electrical company servicing commercial, industrial and residential needs in the City of Laredo. From new construction to retrofits, H.N.A. Electric, Inc. has been providing services to the community and have over 80 years of combined experience in the industry.

H.N.A. Electric credits the TAMIU SBDC with helping it to grow its business.

"The SBDC helped us on our path to success with its guidance in obtaining several certifications we needed to grow our business," said Hector Alonzo Sr., owner of H.N.A. Electric, "Because of the SBDC, we were able to get contracts that required certain certifications and in turn more work."

The SBDC has been assisting small businesses in the community for over 20 years. The TAMIU SBDC is a unique partnership between TAMIU and the University of Texas at San Antonio, with its main office located in TAMIU's Western Hemispheric Trade Center.

Since 2011, the TAMIU SBDC has had a total of 2,961 new clients, and provided 14,364 counseling hours to new and existing businesses. In 2016 alone, some 63,000 businesses in the region were served.

For more information, please contact Michael González, TAMIU SBDC director, at 326.2827, email michaele.gonzalez@tamiu.edu or visit offices located in the Western Hemispheric Trade Center, room 226. Additional information is also available on the TAMIU SBDC website at sbdc.tamiu.edu.

Mr. and Mrs. Vela
Pictured from left to right are: Roque Vela, Sr., Pla-Mor owner; Michael González, TAMIU SBDC
director; Cookie Vela, Pla-Mor owner; and Angelo Piccirillo, TAMIU SBDC Business Advisor.