Last year marked an exciting time of accomplishment for the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center, its clients, and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, according to its latest annual report.

As part of the College of Business at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Innovation Center is a small business incubator that nurtures the development of innovative companies by providing strategic guidance, access to investors, business mentors, and a ready-made network of business and professional resources. The Innovation Center also serves to foster sustained growth in the regional economy of the Coastal Bend in South Texas through its collaboration with community stakeholders in collecting, analyzing, and disseminating economic and business data and information.

Currently, the Innovation Center has 27 clients representing green technology, manufacturing, and other industries. In addition, there are also six entrepreneurs enrolled in its pre-incubation program. The first phase of business development is designed to guide startup companies in the process of exploring their business ideas and viability.

Since 2009, the Innovation Center has assisted more than 120 early-stage entrepreneurs.

“Our clients represent future jobs for the Coastal Bend region and diversity in the area economy,” said Bill Cone, Director of the Innovation Center. “With the new programs and the ability to customize offerings, we now are able to assist innovative businesses at any stage of development. We also continue to utilize the talent and energy of a select group of students from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.”

The Innovation Center also helped establish the South Coast Angel Network, a forum where entrepreneurs are introduced to potential angel investors. To date, more than $500,000 has been invested in its first six months of existence. The Center’s staff is planning new entrepreneurial education course offerings and the creation of a student idea competition at the University’s College of Business. These programs will begin in fall 2015.

In addition, partnerships with the Small Business Development Center at Del Mar College; SCORE, “Counselors to America's Small Business;” the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center; Texas A&M-Corpus Christi; area Economic Development Corporations; Chambers of Commerce; and municipal governments combine to offer a great variety of support services for small business in the Coastal Bend.

Examples of Innovation Center clients, which include a diversity of companies, include:

Arana Water Technologies: The patented water treatment (and sterilization) technology delivers cost-efficient treated, sterilized, and filtered water. It is then ready for drinking, returning to surface water, or for recycling in the petroleum production and refining industries. In 2014, Arana has signed three contracts and also has several negotiations in progress for remediation of a polluted river in Mexico, pre-treatment of water for a project in Myanmar, and waste water treatment for nine fish processing plants in Vietnam. Arana was awarded first place in the 2014 Coastal Bend Business Plan Competition.

Breathe Max: The creator and distributor of nasal dilators that help provide maximum breathing comfort for people of all ages. In 2014, Breathe Max developed its packaged product, increased online sales by 50 percent, and began exploring the possibility of having its product displayed in big department stores like Walmart.

Maricela Sanchez Art: Provides upscale, aesthetic dog gates and crates and home décor accessories. In 2014, the company sold products to clients in 20 states in the continental United States, as well as Toronto, Canada, and Hawaii. Customers include designers, lifestyle experts, and people who love their pets.