The Honorable Nelson Balido, a child of Cuban immigrants, built his father's music business into a Hispanic 500 Company, founded Balido & Associates, and serves as chair and CEO of the Border Commerce & Security Council—in addition to his tireless work as a proponent for Texas Tech University.
Nelson Balido: On a Scarlet & Black Mission
Arts & Sciences Alumnus Shares the Story of Texas Tech With a Contagious Fire.
2.12.2021 | Britton Drown
Stepping to the wooden podium to address the crowd of 15,000 bustling people inside the United Spirit Arena, Nelson Balido hesitated. The smooth, confident, and captivating international marketing consultant suddenly found himself wrapped up by the weight of the moment.
Weeks earlier, he was crisscrossing the southwestern United States, rallying the Hispanic community as an official representative of the 2004 George W. Bush presidential re-election campaign. Now, Balido had been called back to the Texas Tech University campus by administration officials to give this address. That morning, he saw the stage as an invitation to reflect upon the genesis of his own story, one even he himself will quickly say has been quite unpredictable.
"It kind of overwhelmed me," he said of the opportunity.
So, for a moment, as he peered out across the sea of young students in elaborate robes and gowns, eager to turn a chapter in their own stories, Balido drew upon his unique path to this very stage. The message he prepared was not simply the traditional charge of aspiration, but rather a deeper examination of the rare opportunity this society, and this moment in life, extends.
Balido spoke of his own experience, as a child of Cuban immigrants and the first in his family to earn a top-tier college education graduating from this very campus in 1993 with a dual degree in Spanish and international economics from the College of Arts & Sciences. Balido challenged the students in the arena that day to seize the moment, and never lose touch with the idea that earning a degree from Tech is a distinct privilege.
After all, this university fueled the seemingly limitless trajectory in his own journey. So, Balido shared a message of hope, encouragement, and ambition with those eager to blaze their own trail from the South Plains of Lubbock, Texas.
Yet, perhaps symbolic of his own message, Balido's journey was still just beginning on that August morning in 2004.
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More than 15 years after that commencement address, Balido is in his home office in Boerne, Texas. The room pays homage to his nearly three-decade career. The neatly organized space features a plaque from his appointment to the Homeland Security Advisory Council in 2006 and to FEMA in 2008, three gubernatorial appointments and various other state and local honors. Since graduating from Tech, Balido has made a name for himself by forging local and international relationships, built on trust with constituents from a vast array of international organizations, campaigns and industries.
Nelson Balido on FOX Business Network.
After building his father's music business, Southwestern Entertainment, into a Hispanic 500 Company, Balido spent time at AT&T as the director of multicultural marketing before joining the George W. Bush re-election campaign in 2004, overseeing the Viva Bush efforts in New Mexico and Nevada. Later, in 2008, after his appointment to the Homeland Security Advisory Council he helped launch the private sector outreach division at FEMA, which for the first time in the agency's history served as a kind of exchange program between the federal government and private organizations by cross-training talent to familiarize the two sectors with one another.
The unique concept worked. And the program is still active today.
At his core, Balido is a relationship cultivator. That trait has paid dividends as he remains a highly-sought-after consultant and the chairman and CEO of the Border Commerce & Security Council—in addition to his role as founder and adviser with Balido & Associates. Yet, while his career has made impressive strides, there remains one institution as a steady cornerstone in his life.
Which is why today, inside his home office, he abounds with contagious energy pointing to and sharing some of his favorite Texas Tech memorabilia, including a custom patch he had embroidered in Europe.
"There's no other in the world like this," he says about the patch, while showing how he could eventually sew it to a suit coat.
In the moment, Balido is captivated by the stories and the memories that surround
It's as if he is determined to share a message that Texas Tech is so much more than an institution of higher education.
It's an idea.
The Balido family at Memorial Circle on the Texas Tech University campus. From left: Giovanna Balido, Nelson Balido, Dr. Sandra Balido, Julianna Balido.
See, to understand what truly fuels Balido's scarlet-and-black passion, is to sense the role Texas Tech has played in the fabric of his life, his career, and his family. He is quick to share Tech's influence over all three.
Now, he has a deep conviction to share that message well beyond Texas. Balido is a regular on national cable news programs, sharing his expertise, where he also prominently displays the Double-T for the world to see.
"It's about being an evangelist," he says. "I'm an evangelist for Texas Tech."
With that mission, Balido has developed close and trusted relationships with many administrative leaders and academic deans across the Texas Tech University System. Today, he is appealing to university leadership to accelerate its charge toward new forward-thinking initiatives and ideas—including international partnerships and cybersecurity programs to promote innovative opportunities and pipelines for future top-tier students.
"We are developing things that don't exist today that will propel the university forward," Balido says. "Something different than the other state institutions in Texas."
This philosophy is not new to Balido. In fact, almost immediately after graduating from Texas Tech, he was searching for ways to engage and invest in the institution.
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By 1995, Balido was president of the Chancellor's Council Advisory Board, and was invited to join the cabinet for the emerging Horizon Campaign—an ambitious fundraising initiative spearheaded by the Texas Tech University System and then-Chancellor John T. Montford. The initial goal of the campaign was to raise $300 million to fund endowment initiatives, improve facilities and fund student scholarships.
In five years, the campaign shattered that benchmark, raising $500 million.
"It was a watershed moment," Balido said.
The experience and monumental success of the Horizon Campaign opened Balido's eyes to what was possible when the story, vision, and spirit of Texas Tech is shared with the world.
The Balido family at the Frazier Alumni Pavilion on the Texas Tech Campus.
As the Horizon Campaign concluded, Balido joined AT&T as director of multicultural marketing re-connecting with fellow Horizon Campaign committee member, Tech alumnus, and AT&T chief executive Ed Whitacre. In that role, Balido was responsible for $4 billion in business, primarily directing how the corporation connected with the Latino community. His keen ability to cultivate relationships and engage with target audiences proved to be an invaluable asset to the company.
"It doesn't matter if you are selling a phone plan or getting people out to vote," Balido said. "It's how you talk to the environment that wins hearts and minds."
That philosophy carried Balido into his role with the George W. Bush re-election campaign in 2004, before being tapped in 2006 to join the Homeland Security Advisory Council, the Secretaries advisory board, of which he was awarded the highest civilian honor, the Distinguished Public Service Medal for his role in bringing change to the department. He still serves in the Department of Homeland Security in one way or another, this time as a Special Government Employee and consultant to the Undersecretary of Intelligence and Analysis.
His rich experience in the federal government and international advisory roles seemed to only stir a deeper desire to serve. So, in 2008, Balido answered the call by enlisting in the U.S. Navy as a public affairs officer—a role that neatly coupled his passions for serving and consulting. He currently holds the rank of lieutenant commander and is attached to the U.S. Southern Command.
Today, his efforts are concentrated with Balido & Associates—a firm he founded in 2004 as a full-service business providing media and public relations, government and marketing consulting—as well as his role as chairman of the Border Commerce & Security Council.
Balido Gardens at the Frazier Alumni Pavilion, Texas Tech University.
Meanwhile, he continues to energetically serve as an ambassador and evangelist for Texas Tech. The institution is now not only part of his story, but it is also a chapter in the story of his beloved wife of 24 years, Sandra, who is a D.D.S. graduate from Universidad Autonoma de Tamaulipas, Mexico, and adopted Texas Tech as her own. The Balido's daughters Julianna and Giovanna are studying toward degrees as students in the Honors College.
He is also an active member of the Matador Society, the College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Circle, and a former National Board Member of the Texas Tech Alumni Association.
Perhaps the most visible piece of his legacy is Balido Gardens, a community space on the south side of the Texas Tech Frazier Alumni Pavilion in the heart of Tech's campus.
"I have an affinity for staying involved," he says with a slight chuckle.
For Balido, also a Saddle Tramp alumnus, the passion sill derives from the unique spirit and community he discovered at Texas Tech as a student.
And it's that same passion he shared 16 years ago from the commencement stage. No, Balido is not slowing down on his mission to share the message of Texas Tech with the world.
"You do so much that you can't help it," he says. "To see my kids there and leave a legacy behind, that is what we are trying to do."
Flanked by his family, Nelson Balido signals "Guns Up!"